A SWISS non-governmental organization has challenged Hollywood A-list actor Leonardo DiCaprio to participate in a debate on corruption in Malaysia when he attends the European launch of a documentary on climate change.
In a press statement, Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF) said it sent a letter of invite to the actor, who is expected at the BFI London Film Festival for the Oct 15 premiere of “Before the Flood”, a NatGeo documentary produced in collaboration with director Fisher Stevens, James Packer, Martin Scorsese and several others. The documentary will debut Oct 31 on the National Geographic Channel.
In the letter dated Oct 4 addressed directly to DiCaprio, BMF told the actor that it had written to him last month with questions on his alleged financial ties with “politically exposed persons” (PEPs) from Malaysia. However, it said, neither DiCaprio nor his foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, responded to the letter.
The group went on to say, “As you’ll certainly be aware, Malaysian grand corruption is an issue of major international concern due to the embezzlement and subsequent laundering of at least US$3.5 billion dollars from the Malaysian state fund 1MDB by public officials, their associates and a number of international banks.”
1MDB refers to the controversy-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a state-owned sovereign investment fund headed by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak. Najib and his associates have been linked to numerous allegations of misappropriation in the multi-billion dollar scandal, which is currently the subject of several investigations, including the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We have come to know that your new documentary Before the Flood will premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on 15 October. Undoubtedly, you will be travelling to London to present the movie’s important message on climate change to the European public,” BMF said in the letter.
The group then invited DiCaprio to debate on the “detrimental effects of grand corruption on Malaysian society and the environment” with civil society representatives from Malaysia, the UK and Switzerland.
It stressed, however, that it would be particularly interested in learning more about the DiCaprio’s financial and personal ties to individuals linked to the 1MDB scandal, such as Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, a close associate of the prime minister, and Tan Kim Loong.
The debate, said BMF, will take place at 10am on Friday, Oct 14, at the Free Word Centre in London.
“Your personal attendance would be highly appreciated. Please do get back to us to inform us if we may expect you to join this important debate,” the group added in the statement signed off by its executive director Lukas Straumann and campaigner Johanna Michel.
DiCaprio was linked to the individuals through his acting role in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ which was funded by Riza Aziz’s film production company, Red Granite Pictures.
In BMF’s press statement, Straumann said: “Leonardo DiCaprio needs to understand that we can’t save the environment if we fail to stop corruption. And he has to come clean on his ties to Riza Aziz and Low Taek Jho, two key figures of Malaysia’s 1MDB corruption scandal.“
Last month, BMF urged the Oscar-winning DiCaprio to return funds that he and his foundation allegedly received from individuals and companies linked to 1MDB.
Jho Low had reportedly channeled some US$3 million to DiCaprio’s foundation via the purchase of marked-up bottles of champagne at the actor’s birthday party in 2013, the NGO pointed out.
DiCaprio has also been accused of keeping in his possession a stolen Oscar statuette belonging to the late Marlon Brando. The award was allegedly given to him as a gift for his 38th birthday by his friends from Red Granite Pictures.
1MDB was created in 2009 by Najib to promote economic development projects.