U.S. authorities move to seize Leonardo DiCaprio's Picasso, 'stolen' funds in 1MDB case. Simon Thompson reports.
U.S. authorities have moved to seize a Picasso painting given to American movie star Leonardo DiCaprio and the rights to two Hollywood comedies, as they filed complaints to recover about $540 million they say was stolen from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad sovereign wealth fund. The U.S. Justice Department filing was the latest legal action tied to alleged money laundering at the fund set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 to promote economic development. In the complaints, the department alleges more than $4.5 billion was taken from 1MDB by high-level fund officials and their associates. 1MDB could not be immediately reached for comment. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ERIQ GARDNER, SENIOR EDITOR AT THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, SAYING: "Well right now this is impacting a lot of entities. It's impacting huge banks who were part of structuring loans based on some of these funds. It's impacted a lot of people in the entertainment industry including Red Granite pictures which produced 'Wolf of Wall Street,' 'Dumb and Dumber to' and a bunch of other films. It's impacted celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio who are friends with some of the Red Granite founders and it's certainly impacted the people of Malaysia who are wondering if they will ever see their money back." A spokesman for DiCaprio said in an emailed statement the actor last July "initiated the return" of gifts he had received from financiers connected to the 1MDB case. The spokesman said DiCaprio also returned an Oscar won by actor Marlon Brando. That was given to DiCaprio by Red Granite "to thank him for his work on The Wolf of Wall Street," the statement said. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ERIQ GARDNER, SENIOR EDITOR AT THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, SAYING: "Sure, I mean it's certainly not a good thing for a prominent actor to be in the headline that says the government is looking seize their assets, you know, certainly Leonardo DiCaprio has reacted very carefully to this whole thing emphasizing that he is cooperating with authorities. You know, celebrities all the time are gifted items and, you know, I'm sure if you ask them, you know, a lot of the times they have no idea where it's coming from." DiCaprio's spokesman said the star accepted the gifts to raise funds in an auction for his environmental foundation.