Feds questioned Leonardo DiCaprio about his business dealings with a wanted international fraudster
The actor, who’d previously handed over gifts like Marlon Brando’s Oscar and a first edition of ‘The Great Gatsby’ from the outlaw financier Jho Low, claimed he delegated vetting.
The relationship between Leonardo DiCaprio and a Malaysian businessman who is currently at large and wanted by international law enforcement in connection with a multibillion-dollar fraud scheme has come under new scrutiny.
The actor was interrogated by the FBI to learn more about his personal and professional relationships with Jho Low, the alleged mastermind of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, which resulted in the conviction of the nation’s former prime minister for money laundering and abuse of position. The documents, which were previously kept secret by the FBI, were reviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek. The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed charges against Low in 2021 for engaging in a “back channel lobbying campaign” to end the government’s 1MDB investigation. For roughly eight years, he was on the run, Low is believed to be residing in China. An Interpol Red Notice was issued for his arrest in 2016.
In April 2018, DiCaprio was interviewed by an FBI special agent, an IRS investigator, and three DOJ prosecutors. Following their encounter in a nightclub in 2010, the latter and Low collaborated on a number of projects, most notably The Wolf of Wall Street, in which DiCaprio starred and Low provided the financing, with Red Granite’s Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland serving as producers. Along with an eco-friendly resort in Belize, the two also concocted a $1 billion fund for additional movies, a Warner Bros. theme park in Asia with rides based on the A-list actors’ movies. Along the way, their social lives intertwined, with DiCaprio referring to Low as “my man” to his friends and Low referring to DiCaprio as “Ldogg.” (Each of them got to know the other’s mother.)
“I was working for him,” DiCaprio later told a grand jury, “and that business also translates into being social. And so we saw each other more, and there was more interaction.”
Low, who for a short time dated supermodel Miranda Kerr, was renowned for cultivating relationships with American celebrities and showering them with lavish gifts. Bloomberg’s reporting also mentions Kim Kardashian, who told the FBI how Low once offered her a Basquiat piece, which made her then-husband Kanye West request a Monet.
After Low broke his promise to bring a Roy Lichtenstein piece to his eponymous environmental foundation’s annual fundraiser in St. Tropez in 2015, DiCaprio’s relationship with Low ended. The government stated that the actor “was embarrassed”. Later, DiCaprio presented the federal authorities with gifts from Low, including the first edition of The Great Gatsby and the Oscar for On the Waterfront, which Marlon Brando won for On the Waterfront. (The Hollywood Reporter previously explored the saga behind DiCaprio’s Brando Oscar, as well as his foundation’s Low association.)
DiCaprio, whom the government described as existing “in a world of rumours,” admitted to his interrogators that he was unaware of the source of Low’s wealth and that the decision to continue working with him was made after his team had approved Low’s business and philanthropic partners. His longtime manager Rick Yorn played a key role in the Low transactions. DiCaprio didn’t carefully read the background investigation on the financier that his publicist, Shawn Sachs, had contracted someone to conduct.
The actor’s legal team created a press release asking prosecutors to express their gratitude to DiCaprio for helping with their investigation. The offer was rejected by the government.
Bloomberg published related articles about Fugees rapper Pras Michel, who will stand trial on federal criminal trial beginning in late March for his own involvement with Low after declining a plea deal.