Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio secretly testifies in the US about 1MDB scandal, Jho Low’s involvement

Photo: YouTube screengrab

While not a target for prosecution himself, Hollywood superstar Leonardo DiCaprio has secretly made an appearance before a United States District of Columbia grand jury concerning an investigation from the US on Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal, according to a report from the Washington Post dated January 4, 2019.

The prosecutors in the case believe that the American actor is useful as a witness since he can give insights into Low Taek Jho, the Malaysian financier involved in the case who is now at large, and who has, through legal representatives, insisted on his innocence.

Prosecutors have stated in official court documents that Low allowed DiCaprio to use Low’s tab for gambling at the Venetian casino in Las Vegas, gave him expensive works of art as gifts, as well as helped look for funding for DiCaprio’s blockbuster movie, the Wolf of Wall Street.

The financier, popularly known as Jho Low, is accused of having stolen as well as laundered billions of dollars from 1MDB and paid for a campaign to stop the investigation into the scandal. He was charged with money laundering and thievery in New York’s federal court in 2018.

Former bankers with multinational financial institution Goldman Sachs have also been charged with money laundering in connection with the 1MDB scandal.

What exactly DiCaprio has told the jury has not been disclosed. How the Hollywood star escaped notice when he made his appearance at a federal courthouse is also unknown.

Representatives for DiCaprio and the US Justice Department have not commented on DiCaprio’s testimony. A spokesman for the actor, however, said before that DiCaprio is “entirely supportive of all efforts to assure that justice is done in this matter” and was cooperative with the investigation.

DiCaprio is the most famous of the celebrities who have found themselves involved in the 1MDB case. The list includes rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, formerly of the Fugees, who allegedly helped with setting up accounts that would finance Low’s endeavors to stop the investigation’s process. Michel also allegedly sought the services of the owner of an investment company in order to seek favor with the administration of US President Donald Trump.

The investment company owner has been identified as Elliott Broidy, a longtime fundraiser for the Republican Party. No charges have been brought against both Broidy, who raised funds for Trump’s presidential bid, and Michel. However, the possibility that they have broken the law is still being considered by investigators.

Michel and Broidy’s efforts to lobby for ending the investigation did not succeed. A legal representative for Broidy has refused to comment on his lobbying work, pointing out that his client has not been identified by name in court papers. Michel has denied that he has done anything wrong.

Low’s current whereabouts are unknown, though many speculate that he is now in China. He met the Hollywood actor through Riza Shahriz Bin Abdul Aziz, stepson of Najib Razak, Malaysia’s former Prime Minister. Najib has also been charged in connection to the 1MDB scandal. Low has close ties with several highly ranked officials not only in Malaysia but also Abu Dhabi.

Proceeds from the Wolf of Wall Street were seized by prosecutors in 2016, since the movie was reportedly partly financed through funds stolen from 1MDB, via a film company headed by Aziz. When DiCaprio won a Golden Globe award for his part in the movie, he thanked Low by name in his acceptance speech.

A painting by Picasso that an associate of Low had given the Hollywood star has also been identified by prosecutors, alleging that the US$3.2 million (S$ 4.35 million) spent in buying the artwork was taken from pilfered funds. DiCaprio has started the process to turn the artwork over to officials in the US, his spokesman earlier said.

Read related: Jho Low on 1MDB scandal, ‘I’m innocent’

Jho Low on 1MDB scandal, ‘I’m innocent’