Actor Leonardo DiCaprio testified in a federal court Monday regarding the alleged involvement of a Malaysian financier, Jho Low, in a money-laundering scheme. The scheme involves funneling money through a prominent 90s rap artist to make donations to the re-election campaign of former President Barack Obama in 2012.
DiCaprio said, “It was a causal conversation about what party he was in support of, I told him what party I was in support of. And he told me that he, or he and a group, were going to make a significant contribution to the Democratic Party.”
“It was a significant sum… something to the tune of $20-30 million. I said, ‘Wow that’s a lot of money!’” the actor testified.
According to the New York Post:
Low allegedly recruited Prakazrel “Pras” Michel – the founding member of the iconic 1990s hip-hop group The Fugees – to funnel the money to Obama’s reelection bid as foreigners cannot donate to US campaigns under federal election law.
Michel took tens of millions of dollars to lobby the government on behalf of Low and the Chinese government as a whole, prosecutors alleged.
Much of the money was reportedly stolen. Low is accused of embezzling a whopping $4.5 billion from Malaysia’s state investment fund known as 1MDB.
DiCaprio, 48, was called as a witness due to his years-long relationship with Low, who he believed to be “a huge businessman” with connections in Abu Dhabi and Malaysia, he said. Low helped fund his 2013 movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” for which the star won a Golden Globe for best actor…
DiCaprio said he once joined a group who flew with Low on his jet to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Australia before flying to Las Vegas to celebrate the holiday for the second time in one day. He said Michel, who he first met backstage at a Fugees concert in the 90s, came on some of the trips.
DiCaprio and Obama have worked together on several occasions to raise awareness about climate change and the importance of environmental conservation.
In 2015, DiCaprio, who is a long-time environmental activist, was appointed as a United Nations Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change. That same year, he interviewed President Obama for a documentary on climate change called “Before the Flood.
DiCaprio and Obama also appeared together at the first-ever White House South by South Lawn festival in 2016, where they participated in a panel discussion on climate change.
Jho Low, the Malaysian financier at the center of this trial, has been accused of embezzling billions of dollars from Malaysia’s state investment fund, 1MDB. The scandal first came to light in 2015, and has led to investigations and charges in several countries, including the US.
Low has been a fugitive from justice since the scandal broke, and is believed to be hiding out in China. He has denied any wrongdoing, and has claimed that the charges against him are politically motivated.
The trial involving Pras Michel, which DiCaprio testified in, is just one of several legal proceedings related to the 1MDB scandal. Other individuals and entities have been charged with money laundering, bribery, and other crimes, and the US government has sought to recover assets purchased with allegedly stolen funds.