Leonardo DiCaprio Testifies in International Money Laundering Trial

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio testified in federal court as part of a trial involving money laundering, bribery, and a prominent rap artist. The case centers around the theft of billions from a Malaysian state investment fund, with Prakazrel "Pras" Michel accused of funneling money through straw donors to Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

Movie star Leonardo DiCaprio took the stand in federal court on Monday morning as a witness in a trial involving international money laundering, bribery, and a prominent rap artist. Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, one of the founding members of the iconic 1990s hip-hop group The Fugees, is accused of funneling money from a fugitive Malaysian financier through straw donors to Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. Prosecutors claim that Michel essentially became a conduit for Low Taek Jho, commonly known as Jho Low, who is accused of masterminding an international money laundering and bribery scheme that stole billions from the Malaysian state investment fund known as 1MDB.

At the heart of the case is Jho Low, who was one of the primary financers of the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” starring DiCaprio. Low is currently a fugitive but maintains his innocence. DiCaprio’s connection with the case comes from his years-long relationship with Low, who was known for hosting lavish star-studded parties and group vacations on his private jet to events like the World Cup in Brazil.

DiCaprio testified that he had Low’s funding and legitimacy carefully vetted before entering into a business relationship. He also recounted a “casual conversation” with Low in which Low told him he intended to make a large contribution to Obama’s reelection campaign. However, DiCaprio said he was not aware of any illicit activity by Low.

The charges against Michel allege that Low directed more than $21.6 million to be moved from foreign entities to Michel’s accounts in order to funnel money into the 2012 presidential election. They say Michel then paid about 20 straw donors and conduits so they could make the donations in their names and conceal where the money actually came from.

Other witnesses testified that they had been approached by Michel to make shadow contributions to the Obama campaign. Investment banker Richard Kromica said Michel asked him to make a donation on his behalf and sent Kromica and his husband $80,000 to donate. In other cases, acquaintances of Michel were offered invitations to high-roller fundraising dinners and told that their attendance would be “sponsored” by Michel and his associates.

While the trial is ongoing, it sheds light on the complex world of international money laundering and the lengths some individuals will go to conceal their illegal activities.