Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Sponsor Urges Charity to Conduct Due Diligence

Leonardo DiCaprio_Jho Low - Getty - H 2016
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Leonardo DiCaprio_Jho Low - Getty - H 2016

The foundation is facing accusations that it accepted millions of dollars stemming from a major international money laundering scandal.

Despite continued silence from Leonardo DiCaprio's camp over allegations that his charity has accepted millions of dollars that had been diverted from the 1MDB Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, now at the center of a major corruption scandal and Justice Department investigation, the sponsor of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has spoken out.

Swiss bank Julius Baer, a "long-term partner" of the foundation and its annual star-studded St. Tropez auction, has answered questions relating to the charity from the Bruno Manser Funds, a rainforest organization active in Malaysia that has called on DiCaprio to return any corrupt money that may have been received, linking it directly to mass deforestation in the country.

In a letter seen by The Hollywood Reporter, Julius Baer co-head of marketing, Marco Perroni, said that while he couldn't disclose, for legal reasons, whether the bank managed the accounts of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, it did urge its partners to examine the sources of their financing.

"The Julius Baer Group supports charitable goals via the Julius Baer Foundation and via partner organizations. In case of problems, we discuss appropriate measures with our partners in order not to affect or damage the charitable goals and the beneficiaries. Naturally, we also expect our partners to conduct due diligence and take measures," he said, adding that transactions and financial flows handled by the bank were "generally subject to scrutiny with respect to their origin and use."

Earlier this year, Julius Baer agreed to a $547 million payment to U.S. authorities after admitting to having conspired to defraud the IRS by helping taxpayers hide billions of dollars in offshore accounts.

DiCaprio's foundation, the subject of a major exposé in THR over its links to 1MDB, is alleged to have received several donations made by individuals connected to the fund, most notably Jho Low, the controversial Malaysian businessman who was a regular at the actor's side and received a "special mention" in The Wolf of Wall Street's credits.

Meanwhile, more voices have joined the growing chorus calling on DiCaprio to return any scandal-related funds he may have received, including payment for the hit 2013 biopic, which the Justice Department is seizing over allegations it was financed using diverted 1MDB funds.

Maria Abdullah, a prominent lawyer and chair of Bersih, a coalition of non-government organizations in Malaysia calling for clean and fair elections, has written an open letter to the actor, seen by THR, that urges him to "do the right thing" and "return the stolen money to the people of Malaysia."

"Stolen funds from 1MDB, and especially those used to finance The Wolf of Wall Street and its irrelevant and luxurious expenditure could be used to finance our students' scholarships, our universities, our healthcare services, save our forests, given electricity, clean water, roads to people in remote areas, and many others. This could have brought much change to the people's lives," she says, adding that it was "totally unacceptable" that anyone had "gained and scandalously enjoyed themselves from ill-gotten funds."

Abdullah pointed to DiCaprio's recent assistance in launching a new tracker to stop illegal fishing and urged for a similar sense of compassion elsewhere.

"The stolen money must be returned — lock, stock and barrel — to the Malaysian people as we need it to rebuild back our economy and restore our sense of justice, rights and integrity as a nation," she says.

Alongside the Bruno Manser Funds and Abdullah of Bersih, the Save Rivers charity and award-winning human rights advocate Ambiga Sreenevasan have also spoken out about DiCaprio's involvement in the 1MDB scandal, demanding that he repay any corrupt money he received.