Environmental activists with the Switzerland-based rainforest charity Bruno Manser Fonds demanded that, in the wake of Leonardo DiCaprio's connections to a Malaysian finance scandal that the charity has said directly contributed to deforestation in that country, he should step down as UN Messenger of Peace, which he was appointed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2014.
“Leonardo DiCaprio has consistently refused to explain his close personal and financial ties with key persons of the Malaysian 1MDB scandal,“ said Lukas Straumann, director of the charity, in a statement. “This is unacceptable. If DiCaprio fails to distance himself from Malaysian corruption, he should resign as UN Messenger of Peace for climate change."
The 1MDB scandal concerns a Malaysian government-run development company, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, that was used as a conduit by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to allegedly funnel over $700 million to his personal bank accounts. Some $155 million of that money went towards financing DiCaprio's movie The Wolf of Wall Street, which was produced by a company owned by Razak's stepson. Additional reporting by the Hollywood Reporter revealed that Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman at the center of the 1MDB scandal, has donated over $2 million to DiCaprio's environmentally-focused foundation.
Other parts of the 1MDB money went towards silencing opposition to mass deforestation on the Malaysian island of Borneo, which DiCaprio has harshly criticized in the past. However, "We can't save the environment if we fail to stop corruption," said Straumann to the Hollywood Reporter, who called DiCaprio's criticism of deforestation in the Indonesia-controlled parts of Borneo, "cynical hypocrisy."
Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.