Leonardo DiCaprio testified in the prosecution of ex-Fugees rapper Pras Michel, who is accused of taking money from a fugitive tycoon in order to influence US lawmakers. Mr. Michel, age 50, allegedly received over $100 million (£80 million) from the Malaysian billionaire Jho Low. He rejects numerous charges, including conspiracy and interfering with witnesses.
Mr. DiCaprio, 48, who is not accused of wrongdoing in the case, was compelled to testify regarding his connections to Mr. Low. Mr. Low is accused of stealing billions from Malaysia's national wealth fund through the 1MDB conspiracy, the world's largest embezzlement operation.
According to federal authorities, Mr. Michel was compensated for exerting "illegal, hidden foreign influence" on American politics. Mr. Michel is suspected of making illegal contributions to the 2012 presidential campaign of Barack Obama, utilizing an illicit network of third parties paid with foreign monies. Authorities say Mr. Low also intended to use Mr. Michel to urge Trump administration officials to end their investigation into his alleged role in the 1MDB fraud.
In this case, both Mr. Michel and Mr. Low are charged, but only Mr. Michel is present in court. Mr. Low is currently on the run and presumed to be in China. According to the prosecution, the financier exploited his considerable resources to court favor with celebrities, including Mr. DiCaprio and model Miranda Kerr.
Mister Low's gatherings have attracted celebrities such as Alicia Keys, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears. Once, Spears leaped out of a birthday cake to wish Mr. Low a happy birthday.
Monday in court in Washington, DC, a soft-spoken, bearded Mr. DiCaprio testified about his financial connections to Mr. Low. Mr. DiCaprio, who introduced himself simply as an actor, told the jury that he met Mr. Low for the first time in 2010 at a party in Las Vegas.
In succeeding years, he attended "a multiplicity of expensive parties" on boats and in nightclubs, along with other celebrities, actors, and artists, at Mr. Low's request. Mr. DiCaprio and Mr. Low once attended a New Year's Eve party in Australia, following which partygoers were transported to the United States to celebrate New Year's twice.
Wolf of Wall Street, a 2013 film starring an actor about a known con artist, was partially funded by a company associated with Mr. Low. Mr. DiCaprio stated in court, "I believed him to be a powerful businessman with a vast network." "He was a business prodigy and incredibly successful." Many times, US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly told the actor to speak loudly enough for the jury and court reporter to hear him.
Mr. Michel looked at the actor and waved when he was asked to identify himself in court by Mr. DiCaprio.
Bloomberg previously claimed that Mr. Low was "particularly generous" with Mr. DiCaprio, donating a $3.2 million Picasso and a $9.2 million Jean-Michel Basquiat to his organization. Mr. DiCaprio apparently gave up these and other items received from Mr. Low to authorities later on.
In his testimony, Mr. DiCaprio did not accuse Mr. Michel of misconduct. He stated that he met Mr. Michel for the first time in the 1990s after a Fugees concert. Mr. DiCaprio told the jury that he lost communication with Mr. Low in 2015 after learning of the probe into his financial transactions.