Here’s Why Leonardo DiCaprio Was In Court This Week

It's all very Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio has appeared in court to testify in a money laundering case

by Nikki Peach |
Published on

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio has appeared in court to testify in the trial of ex-Fugees rapper Pras Michel, who has been accused of accepting money from a fugitive tycoon to influence US politicians.

Pras, 50, allegedly received more than $100m (£80m) from Malaysian billionaire Low Taek Jho (known as Jho Low) but denies the slew of charges, including conspiracy and witness tampering.

Leonardo, 48, is not accused of wrongdoing in the case but was asked to testify about his links to Jho. On Monday, in a court in Washington DC, he told jurors he first met Jho at a party in Las Vegas in 2010. He subsequently attended 'a multitude of lavish parties' on yachts and in nightclubs with other celebrities.

The actor's 2013 film Wolf of Wall Street was partially funded by a firm tied to Jho. 'I understood him to be a huge businessman with many connections,' Mr DiCaprio said in court. 'He was a prodigy in the business world and ultra-successful.'

Jho allegedly stole billions from Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund in the 1MDB scheme, the biggest embezzlement case in history. According to federal prosecutors, Pras was paid to bring 'secret, illegal foreign influence to bear' on US politics.

Pras is accused of making illegal contributions to Barack Obama's 2012 US presidential campaign, using an illegal network of third parties paid with foreign funds.

And prosecutors also believe Jho wanted to use Pras to lobby Trump administration officials to abandon their investigation into Jho's alleged role in the 1MDB scheme.

Both men are facing charges, but only Pras is appearing in court.

Prosecutors say the financier used his resources to build relationships with celebrities, such as Leonardo and model Miranda Kerr. Jho is said to have had 'lavish parties', where Britney Spears once jumped out of a cake to wish him happy birthday.

On one occasion, Leonardo attended a New Year's Eve party in Australia with Jho, and partygoers were then flown to the US so they could celebrate New Year's twice.

US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly more than once asked Leonardo to 'keep his voice up' so he could be heard by the jury and court reporter.

Bloomberg previously reported that Jho was 'especially generous' with the actor and donated a $3.2m work of art by Picasso to his charity, in addition to a $9.2m piece from Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Leonardo reportedly later turned those items and others received from Jho over to authorities.

On Monday, the actor said that Jho actively participated in auctions held by Leonardo in St Tropez 'to bring in funds' for his environmentally focused foundation.

Later in their relationship, Leonardo said the two men began discussing US politics, with Jho expressing an interest in making a 'significant contribution' of between $20m and $30m to the Democratic party ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

'I basically said, "wow, that's a lot of money",' the actor said in court. Authorities believe those funds were embezzled from 1MDB.

Leonardo did not accuse Pras of wrongdoing in his testimony. He said that he first met the rapper was in the 1990s following a Fugees concert.

In 2019, Leonardo reportedly testified before a grand jury in Washington DC as part of the justice department's investigation into the 1MDB scheme. He told jurors that he lost contact with Jho around 2015 after being informed that he was under investigation for his financial dealings.

The Oscar-winner may not be the only celebrity to testify in Pras's trial.

During jury selection, attorneys named actors including Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx and Mark Wahlberg as possible witnesses, in addition to director Martin Scorsese, according to CNN. US government officials including Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, could also be called to testify.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us