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For years we all wondered when Leonardo DiCaprio would finally win his much-coveted Oscar. Then, after four nominations, the fifth time paid for all when he won the Best Actor prize for his role in The Revenant. Leonardo DiCaprio still has that Oscar, but the acclaimed actor was ordered to turn in another of the golden statues. And the web of crime and intrigue behind it is as crazy a story as any you'd see in one of the actor's films.
The Oscar in question is the Best Actor statue won by Marlon Brando for his role as Terry Malloy in Elia Kazan's 1954 film, On the Waterfront. Leonardo DiCaprio received this statue as a gift, but the actor has since handed the Oscar over, after being ordered to do so by federal investigators. According to Entertainment Tonight, that's because the man who gave Leonardo DiCaprio the Oscar is one of the subjects in a massive investigation that spans the globe and involves billions of dollars in embezzled money.
Somehow, Marlon Brando's first Oscar wound up in the hands of a memorabilia dealer, who sold it for $600,000 to a Malaysian financier by the name of Jho Low. Jho Low gave the Oscar, as well as a Picasso painting, to Leonardo DiCaprio as a gift. But the source of the money that paid for the Oscar is the matter in question.
It all starts with the Malaysian investment fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). 1MDB was established in part by former (he was voted out and arrested) Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The fund had the purported goal of raising and borrowing money with the goal of helping ordinary Malaysians.
However, that does not appear to be what actually happened, as the money was allegedly used as a personal piggy bank for Najib Razak and his inner circle, including Jho Low. Through a complex network of bank accounts and shell companies, billions of dollars were siphoned from 1MDB and went to all kinds of lavish purchases.
The $600,000 Oscar was chump change compared to some of the items reporetedly purchased. The laundered money was used to buy a $27.3 million diamond necklace and $200 million was used just to buy artwork, according to The New York Times. There was also a $35 million jet and a $250 million yacht, in addition to over a dozen properties around the world.
Some of the embezzled money was also allegedly used by Najib Razak' stepson, Riza Aziz, to found Red Granite Productions and fund its films, including Daddy's Home and in an instance of life imitating art that imitated life, The Wolf of Wall Street. Red Granite Productions has since, without admitting to any wrongdoing, agreed to pay the U.S. government $60 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the potential illegality of how it financed its films.
As the United States has pursued the case, authorities have been investigating around the globe and seizing Jho Low's many opulent assets that were supposedly purchased with the embezzled money, and that includes the Oscar he gave to Leonardo DiCaprio. Meanwhile Jho Low is still at large and believed to be hiding out in China.
It doesn't look like Leo will get the Oscar back either, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has the right to buy it back from the government for $1.
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