Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio made stunning court testimony for the prosecution in federal court Monday morning as part of hip-hop star Brass Michel’s money laundering trial with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)
DiCaprio’s involvement in the case stems from the money behind his movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which was funded in part by the man who allegedly masterminded the 1MDB plot.
Prakazrel ‘Pras’ Michel is a founding member of the ’90s group The Fugees.
He is accused of funneling money from fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low through donors to former President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Prosecutors allege that Michel attempted to illegally pressure both the Obama and Trump administrations using money provided to him by Low that had millions stolen from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.
DiCaprio, a witness for the prosecution, told the court that Michel attended lavish parties thrown by Law – including a New Year’s Eve celebration in Australia and then Las Vegas.
Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio testified for prosecutors in federal court Monday morning as part of the 1MDB money laundering trial of hip-hop star Brass Michel.
Prakazrel ‘Pras’ Michel, a member of the ’90s hip-hop group The Fugees arrives in federal court to stand trial in an alleged campaign finance plot
Leonardo DiCaprio with Jho Low at The Wolf of Wall Street premiere in Paris
At the center of the issue is Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low. The financier is accused of being the mastermind behind an international money laundering and bribery scheme that stole billions of dollars from the Malaysian state investment fund known as 1MDB.
Lu is currently a fugitive, but has maintained his innocence.
Michelle, according to prosecutors, became a vessel for Low’s stolen millions and his attempts to influence the United States government.
It is alleged that from June to November of 2012, Law funneled more than $21.6 million from foreign accounts into Michelle’s accounts in order to funnel money into the 2012 Obama campaign coffers.
Michel then supposedly used the money to pay 20 donors to pass money to the campaign in their names and to hide its true origins.
On Monday, DiCaprio, 48, testified in Washington, D.C., that he met and became friends at a birthday party in Las Vegas in 2010.
“I understood that he is a huge businessman with many different connections in Abu Dhabi and Malaysia,” the master said.
The Oscar winner calmly answered questions on the podium and said that in addition to his relationship with Low, he’d known Michele since sometime in the ’90s, when they met backstage after the Fugees.
While still riding high, Low was known to throw lavish parties around the world, often featuring celebrity guests. He has flown groups on his private jet to events such as the World Cup.
Michele, who testified to DiCaprio, was present on some of those trips, one of which included flying to Australia for New Year’s Eve and then flying to Las Vegas to celebrate the New Year for the second time.
Law cultivated a relationship with DiCaprio through charitable donations to his foundation and eventually offered to provide seed funding for The Wolf of Wall Street.
The film’s star testified that Low’s financing had been vetted and that it was “greenlighted by my team as well as my studio”.
“He was a legitimate businessman who wanted to invest in the movie,” he said.
DiCaprio also recalled a conversation in which Law said he intended to make a significant contribution to Obama’s re-election effort.
“It was a lot of money – between 20 and 30 million dollars,” he said. “I said, wow, that’s a lot of money!”
At the stand on Monday, DiCaprio told the court how Law built a relationship with him through charitable donations to his foundation and eventually offered to provide seed funding to the “Wolf of Wall Street.”
Michelle, according to prosecutors, became a vessel for Low’s stolen millions and his attempts to influence the US government.
The Wolf of Wall Street had a reported budget of $100 million and grossed a total of over $400 million worldwide when it was released in 2013.
It has been nominated for five Academy Awards and gives special thanks to Jho Low in the credits.
The film’s production company, Red Granite, agreed to pay the US government $60 million but did not admit any wrongdoing as part of a larger effort by the feds to seize nearly $1.7 billion in assets allegedly purchased with 1MDB’s stolen money.
Who is Jho Low?
Jho Low is a Malaysian businessman who is now a fugitive after fleeing the United States.
The 41-year-old is facing money laundering charges – in addition to a slew of other offences.
He is linked to the 1MDB fund – which has been embroiled in an embezzlement scandal.
But before he became a fugitive, he lived a glamorous lifestyle rubbing shoulders with some of Hollywood’s elite.
Law studied at Wharton – the famous business school of the University of Pennsylvania. On his 20th birthday, he rented a club for $40,000 in Philadelphia to celebrate with his friends.
According to prosecutors, after college he became a mastermind in offshore financing – he would get Malaysian banks to lend him billions of dollars and learn how to set up shell companies.
He was a friend of the Malaysian prime minister – and helped him fund his government by creating a state-owned sovereign wealth fund – called 1MDB.
1MDB stands for 1Malaysia Development Bhd, and was created to promote development in the country.
He would pull out hundreds of millions of dollars for himself and start partying with the elite and celebrities – including Leo DiCaprio and Paris Hilton.
Low-priced luxury owned real estate in New York, Los Angeles and London – plus millions in art and private jets.
But the penny dropped in 2014. The Malaysian prime minister realized what he was doing and in 2016 an American lawyer sought to recover $1 billion worth of assets from Low.
According to the US Department of Justice, most of the 1MDB funds raised were misappropriated and transferred to shell companies and offshore bank accounts linked to Low.
Goldman Sachs, which was also implicated in the scandal, entered into its first-ever guilty plea and agreed to pay $5 billion and a $2.9 billion fine in the US.
Low denies any wrongdoing. Prosecutors are still trying to find him.