The ongoing controversy involving the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation’s alleged ties to an international embezzlement scandal has intensified after the Bruno Manser Fund, a Swiss-based foundation, challenged the troubled charity to return questionable donations.
Earlier this month, DiCaprio’s environmental-focused charitable organization was the subject of news reports linking it to a $3 billion Malaysian embezzlement scheme. The Oscar winner’s foundation, which focuses on climate change initiatives, allegedly received major donations tied to money misappropriated from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB that had been earmarked for development in the Southeast Asian country.
Now, The Bruno Manser Funds, an environmental organization that focuses on Malaysian rainforest protection, is demanding the actor’s charity return what it claims is tainted money.
“We were appalled to see that a foundation that basically champions very similar causes to ours would accept corrupt funds,” Bruno Manser Funds’ executive director Lukas Straumann told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s double standards. It really damages his credibility and the credibility of the foundation. If he wants to be a role model, a U.N. ambassador for peace and for climate change, then he should also be an example in how he handles his role.”
A Justice Department complaint claims that Red Granite Pictures — the production company co-founded by the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s stepson, Riza Aziz — used $238 million of 1MDB money to produce The Wolf of Wall Street, for which DiCaprio won a Golden Globe. Straumann is also demanding that the actor return the estimated $25 million he was paid to star in 2013 Martin Scorsese-directed movie.
“Money was stolen from the treasury and went straight into Leo’s pocket,” Straumann said. “That is dirty money, and he should pay it back.”
To date, no evidence has emerged linking DiCaprio or his charity to funds from 1MDB.
Straumann, attempting to explain how a so-called environmentalist like DiCaprio justifies his alleged role in the 1MDB scandal, suggested the star has a “bipolar personality.”
“We hear he has a genuine commitment to nature and championing indigenous rights, and I think it’s extremely important for someone in Hollywood to do that, but if it comes to accepting stolen money, that’s a simple no go,” Straumann said. “Maybe he has a bipolar personality.”
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