The Bruno Manser Funds (BMF), a Switzerland-based rainforest charity, called on actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio to give up his title as United Nations (UN) Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change at a press conference on October 14.
BMF demanded DiCaprio either renounce his connections to “politically exposed persons” at the center of the multi-billion dollar Malaysian development corruption scandal currently being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and return stolen money allegedly laundered through his movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and his charity or resign from the position he was given by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2014.
According to DOJ, $61 million was embezzled from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign wealth fund, millions of which were allegedly diverted to the production of DiCaprio’s movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” through Red Granite Pictures. Red Granite, which co-produced DiCaprio’s movie, was co-founded by Riza Aziz, the stepson of the Malaysian prime minister, one of the main figures being investigated by the DOJ for embezzling money from 1MDB.
In addition, the Hollywood Reporter recently disclosed since 2013, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation received more than $2 million in cash and in-kind donations from DiCaprio associate Jho Low, a controversial Malaysian businessman and friend of the Malaysian prime minister’s wife who DOJ says is at the center of its embezzlement investigation.
“If DiCaprio is unwilling to come clean, we ask him to step down as UN Messenger for Peace for climate change, because he simply lacks the credibility for such an important role,” said Lukas Straumann, executive director of BMF which focuses on preventing deforestation especially in Malaysia, at the press conference.
According to the Economic Times of India, journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown’s online Sawarak Report has been investigating corruption in Malaysia for several years. Brown reports funds from 1MDB were also used to “pay off the chief minister of Sawarak,” the Malaysian state on Borneo where, under the 30-year rule of governor Abdul Taib Mahmud, massive deforestation has occurred.
“We can’t save the environment if we fail to stop corruption,” said Straumann according to the Economic Times. Straumann also called DiCaprio’s criticism of deforestation in the Indonesia-controlled parts of Borneo, “cynical hypocrisy.”
“He needs to become part of the solution,” Straumann added. “But today he is part of the problem.”
This is not the first time DiCaprio has been criticized as being a climate hypocrite. Numerous news outlets have pointed out DiCaprio, while calling for strong action to fight climate change, regularly flies himself and friends to parties and events around the world on private jets emitting thousands of tons of carbon dioxide. The Daily Mail estimates DiCaprio has potentially emitted up to 418.4 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide this year through his globe-trotting, compared to the average American who emits 19 tons a year.
DiCaprio, who was invited to speak at the press conference via an open letter from the BMF, neither responded to the invitation nor attended the event. The day after the press conference, Straumann and BMF campaign manager Johanna Michel were refused entry into the London premier of DiCaprio’s climate change movie, “Before the Flood,” despite having tickets to the premier.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.