Last year, Leonardo DiCaprio handed over to federal authorities an Oscar once awarded to Marlon Brando, as it was a gift to him from a Malaysian financier that has been arrested on charges of committing fraud against an investment fund to the tune of billions of dollars, and using the funds in the most extravagant way imaginable.
According to a feature report published Sunday by The New York Times, prosecutors say that arrested financier Jho Low and the former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak were among those who siphoned billions from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a fund meant to benefit projects that would service the Malaysian public.
Instead, according to prosecutors, Low took billions from the fund and used it on lavish items and gifts. According to the NYT’s report, that includes a $250 million custom-built yacht, a $35 million Bombadier jet, $200 million in artwork including paintings by Van Gogh and Picasso, and the aforementioned Oscar that Marlon Brando won in 1954 for his performance in “On the Waterfront.”
Low’s connection to DiCaprio goes beyond the gifts. The film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” for which DiCaprio earned an Oscar nomination, was one of several films Low financed with the illegally obtained funds, prosecutors say. Low financed the film through a production label called Red Granite Pictures, which has also been attached to comedies like “Daddy’s Home” and “Dumb and Dumber To”
After investigation into the embezzlement began, DiCaprio relinquished all gifts given to him by Low, including the Oscar and Pablo Picasso’s “Nature Morte au Crâne de Taureau” (Still Life With Bull’s Head), which he stored in Switzerland. Representatives for DiCaprio said that the painting and other gifts from Low were intended for a charity auction to benefit the actor’s foundation, and that he reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice to negotiate the return of the items.
The Oscar might not stay with the feds for long. The Academy says that it reserves the right to buy back any Oscar that gets sold on the collector’s market for just one dollar. So if you see Brando’s Oscar on display at the museum the Academy will open next year, take a moment to think about the strange journey that golden statue has taken.
UPDATE 12/11, 1:40 PM PT: The article has been modified to include previously made statements from DiCaprio’s representatives.