DiCaprio’s Role in Malaysia’s 1MDB Mess

DiCaprio’s Role in Malaysia’s 1MDB Mess

The Wolf of Wall Street star now finds himself embroiled in a sordid real life tale of financial scandal.

Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar in 2016 for portraying a man struggling to survive in the unforgiving wilderness. Little did he know his latest starring role would be stumbling through the unforgiving wilderness of Malaysian politics.

We’ve long known that the Hollywood heartthrob’s “Wolf of Wall Street” project rubbed up against some unsavory elements in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s nation. What we didn’t until Tuesday is that DiCaprio has been cooperating with the U.S. Justice Department since July amid investigations into artwork, luxury real estate and other assets bought with stolen money from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. state fund. Implicated is financier Jho Low, DiCaprio’s friend, “Wolf of Wall Street” co-producer and associate of Riza Aziz, Najib’s stepson.

My point here isn’t to impugn DiCaprio, who may merely be guilty by association. It’s to point out that Najib’s efforts to suppress and stage-manage Malaysia’s worst scandal in decades are being stymied aboard. Like a global game of Whack-a-Mole, new investigations into 1MDB, and by extension Najib, seem to pop up overseas each time Putrajaya manages to beat down a domestic whistleblower, press report or courageous opposition leader. Bottom line, Najib’s crisis isn’t going away and that’s bad news for Malaysia’s economy.

Leonardo DiCaprio accepts the Critics’ Choice award for Best Actor in a Comedy for “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

When Najib took the reins his father held decades earlier, Malaysia was endeavoring toward developed-nation status by 2020. Emphasis on “endeavoring,” of course. But Najib’s fecklessness and scandals have amounted to a lost period for reforms to increase competitiveness, productivity and foreign investment. As Najib doubled down on affirmative action policies that enrich the Malay majority and repel multinational companies, censored the media and silenced critics, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam moved up the economic food chain. As his ministers circled the wagons, Malaysia’s 2020 dream is being delayed further and further.

Embarrassing international headlines are leading to some unexpected feedback effects back home. Take the shocking bromance between Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s prime minister and finance minister during the height of the 1997-1998 Asian crisis. A very public falling out over Mahathir’s capital controls and anti-Semitic tirades against speculators – to which Anwar strongly objected – led to Anwar being fired and jailed on sodomy and corruption charges human right watchers never quite bought.

Mahathir and Anwar recently buried the hatchet to join forces against Najib’s refusal to resign and restore honor to Putrajaya. As political wags wonder what it all means, my thoughts trail back to those dueling Hong Kong ballrooms in 1997 where Mahathir accused George Soros and his ilk of attacking poor Malaysia, the billionaire retorting Mahathir was a “menace” to his nation and Anwar trying to pick up the pieces. Things have gone full circle enough for these fiercest of enemies to find common ground against Najib.

DiCaprio’s Role in Malaysia’s 1MDB Mess
By William Pesek
October 21, 2016 – Barrons


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All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
Do you hear the people sing?



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