Leonardo DiCaprio Dragged Into Growing 'Wolf of Wall Street' Money-Laundering Scandal

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Leonardo DiCaprio

The actor was referred to as "Hollywood Actor 1" in the "largest single action" ever brought by the Department of Justice's Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which landed the same day as the annual Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation charity event in the south of France.

With Lana Del Rey and The Weeknd performing and guests that included Bono, Mariah Carey and Bradley Cooper, plus a couple of Victoria's Secret models, Wednesday looked set to be another day in the glittering existence of Hollywood's hottest actor.

But Leonardo DiCaprio's star-studded environmental foundation gala in the South of France took place the same day the Department of Justice filed a record-breaking complaint linked to a major international embezzlement scandal in which the actor is cited in everything but name. Coincidence or not, DiCaprio is now in an awkward and potentially legally-perilous situation because of his connections to The Wolf of Wall Street producers Red Granite and the controversial Malaysian businessman Jho Low. 

The filings unveiled Wednesday by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which she labeled the "largest single action" ever brought by the DoJ's Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, featured massive asset seizures worth in excess of $1 billion, including the civil forfeiture of rights to The Wolf of Wall Street, which allegedly was financed by money misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign investment fund.

While DiCaprio isn't among the main "relevant individuals" discussed in the complaint, which focuses on Low and Red Granite CEO and co-founder Riza Aziz (who happens to be the stepson of the Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, at the heart of the $7 billion-plus scandal), his close association with the two isn't ignored.

The complaint claims that a "lead actor in The Wolf of Wall Street'," which it names "Hollywood Actor 1," went gambling in Las Vegas' Venetian casino in 2012 with Low, Aziz and Joey McFarland, who founded Red Granite with Aziz. The group used Low's account – financed via funds siphoned from the 1MDB investment fund – from which $1.15 million was withdrawn in one day.

Later, "Hollywood Actor 1" pops up again, this time with regards to his Golden Globe acceptance speech for The Wolf of Wall Street, in which he "thanked 'the entire production team,' singling out in particular 'Joey, Riz, and Jho,' whom he characterized as 'collaborators' on the film." DiCaprio won a Golden Globe as lead actor in a comedy for Wolf of Wall Street, and he did indeed thank those people in his speech. 

Despite referencing DiCaprio not once but twice, the complaint issued Wednesday – which lists hundreds of millions of dollars of luxury property and artwork bought buy Low and Aziz – doesn't suggest there's any looming prosecution against the actor or any wrongdoing besides an implication he witnessed gambling of embezzled money. But his close association with these "collaborators" on a film in which he earned in excess of $25 million could well see the newly-minted Oscar winner become a key individual federal investigators would want to interview should they, as expected, follow up Wednesday's asset seizure with charges against alleged conspirators.

Indeed, DiCaprio's links to Low date back to before The Wolf of Wall Street, to 2010, with reports of the two partying together in New York clubs. DiCaprio was also spotted with the Malaysian playboy at the South Africa Soccer World Cup in 2010, with Low regular Paris Hilton also in attendance.

It is reported that it was Low who introduced DiCaprio to his old university friend Aziz, who set up Red Granite to produce the actor's passion project, based on the memoirs of disgraced banker Jordan Belfort. A splashy launch party in Cannes in 2011, attended by DiCaprio, Aziz and Low, announced the company and film to the world. The complaint alleges that Aziz was sent $238 million of embezzled 1MDB money, from which nearly $100 million went to real estate and the funding of Red Granite, which would set up shop in the same building as DiCaprio's Appian Way on Sunset Boulevard.

Low and DiCaprio would attend each other's birthday parties. Low's was a notorious multi-million dollar 30th bash in Vegas in 2012, where DiCaprio reportedly rapped onstage with Busta Rhymes. DiCaprio celebrated his 39th birthday the following year at Tao Downtown, where Low was reportedly among the big spenders.

As a gift, Low bought DiCaprio the best actor Oscar statuette Marlon Brando won in 1955 for On the Waterfront, reported to have cost some $600,000.

With Low now understood to be living between Shanghai and Taiwan, avoiding extradition to either the U.S. or Malaysia, it's unlikely he'll be making the trip from Asia to the south of France for his former drinking buddy's charity bash. Indeed, their relationship and DiCaprio's potential knowledge of Low's financial arrangements is one the feds may well want to investigate as they move towards criminal charges.

Last year's event in St. Tropez raised some $40 million for the charity via a star-studded auction. Among the items offered by friends and well-wishers was a Roy Lichtenstein sculpture, donated by a man now at the center of one of the DoJ's largest ever anti-corruption operations, one Jho Low.

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Leonardo DiCaprio's reps for comment.

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