Here’s How the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Is Connected to a $3 Billion Embezzlement Case

Embattled financier Jho Low allegedly used money from a sovereign fund to buy art and champagne bottles at charity auctions

Last Updated: August 18, 2016 @ 11:39 AM

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has a financial connection to a $3 billion Malaysian embezzlement scandal currently being investigated by the Justice Department, according to a recent report citing attendees at foundation charity auctions corroborated by the DOJ’s July 20 complaint.

DiCaprio’s personal ties to the figure at the center of the accusations, financier Jho Low, have been known for some time and were further detailed in the complaint, but a report by The Hollywood Reporter provides the first direct link between the star’s charitable foundation — which claims to have given away more than $30 million in grants this year — and the embezzlement investigation.

Low, a gambling and partying buddy of the “Revenant” star, is accused by the DOJ of siphoning off more than $3 billion from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB, and treating it essentially like a personal piggy bank, buying increasingly extravagant items and ingratiating himself with Hollywood A-listers.

Red Granite Pictures, a production company founded by two Low associates, Joey McFarland and Riza Aziz — stepson of the Malaysian prime minister, who is also implicated in the scandal — acquired the rights to DiCaprio’s “Wolf of Wall Street,” allegedly financed with ill-gotten 1MDB cash, according to the DOJ complaint. DiCaprio thanked Low, Aziz and McFarland in an acceptance speech at the 2014 Golden Globes.

But now, there appears to be at least one direct link between the alleged scandal and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

The DOJ complaint alleges that an account in the name of Tanore Finance Corp., affiliated with Low, purchased art at an May 13, 2013 “11th hour” charity auction with funds improperly diverted from 1MDB:

At auctions held in New York on or about May 13, 2013, and May 15, 2013, Tanore purchased five works of art for a collective total price of $58,348,750. Specifically, invoices show that at an “11th Hour” Charity Sale on May 13, 2013, Tanore purchased an unnamed work by Mark Ryden for $714,000 (“Ryden work”) and an unnamed work by Ed Ruscha for $367,500 (“Ruscha work”).

A Christie’s press release confirms an “11th Hour” charity auction on that same date, with proceeds benefiting the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. The transactions included art by Ryden and Ruscha.

The Hollywood Reporter story also cites attendees at DiCaprio’s 2013 birthday party who said that Low and McFarland helped raise money for the foundation by buying bottles of champagne, but that could not be independently verified.