ACTIVISTS from Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF), the Switzerland-based rainforest charity that has been pressuring Leonardo DiCaprio over his alleged links to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) controversy, were denied entry to the London premiere of the Hollywood actor’s climate change documentary on Saturday.
BMF campaign manager Johanna Michel and executive director Lukas Straumann reportedly had valid tickets to attend the event at London’s Leicester Square but were told by security officers and the Odeon theatre’s box office manager that they were not allowed in.
“I was completely surprised when the security officer pulled us out and said we wouldn’t be allowed in,” Straumann said.
In a press statement later, they claimed the reason given to them was because they were seen holding a banner on Leicester Square calling on DiCaprio to pay back “stolen Malaysian corruption assets”.
Both activists were also informed that they would receive refunds for their tickets to watch “Before the Flood”, a NatGeo documentary that DiCaprio 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.
“This is outrageous and unheard of as we had done nothing apart from exerting our right to the freedom of opinion in a public space,” Straumann said in the statement.
“We demand an apology from Leonardo DiCaprio and from the BFI London Film Festival. Obviously, we were specifically targeted as we had criticized Leonardo DiCaprio’s failure to deal appropriately with the millions of dollars that he and the Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation had received from politically exposed persons from Malaysia.”
Straumann and Michel were both in London to hold a press conference along with other civil society activists from Malaysia on the 1MDB corruption scandal.
During the press conference, they urged DiCaprio to resign as UN Messenger of Peace for climate change due to his refusal to come clean on his alleged ties to those embroiled in the multibillion dollar scandal.
The group, citing information from numerous sources, accused the Oscar-winning actor of benefiting from funds allegedly siphoned from the troubled investment fund founded by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak.
They also urged the actor to publicly disown Riza Aziz and his associate Low Taek Jho, two individuals instrumental in the production of “The Wolf of Wall Street”. The actor was also urged to pay back to Malaysia all the allegedly dubious funds he had accepted from Riza and Low.
Riza Aziz is Najib’s stepson while Low, also known as Jho Low, is alleged to be a close friend of the prime minister’s flamboyant wife Rosmah Mansor.
According to the US Department of Justice, US$61 million embezzled from the Malaysian state fund 1MDB flew into the production of The Wolf of Wall Street, which was co-produced by DiCaprio and Scorsese.
BMF said it was estimated that DiCaprio alone was paid US$25 million for his role as Jordan Belfort in the film, a role that earned him the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.
The Hollywood Reporter recently disclosed that the actor’s foundation – the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation – had benefited from over US$2 million in cash and kind donations by Low since 2013. BMF noted from the report that Low last year donated a Roy Lichtenstein sculpture to the foundation, which was auctioned at a fundraising Gala in St. Tropez.