How Leonardo DiCaprio's Wolf Of Wall Street Role Connected Him To A Criminal Investigation

Leonardo DiCaprio has portrayed infamous con man Frank Abagnale Jr. and financial criminal Jordan Belfort. But it seems that playing interesting criminals has wrapped him up alongside a real-life crime. Malaysian financier Jho Low, who is nicknamed the "Asian Great Gatsby," had a close relationship with the actor who portrayed Gatsby in the 2013 film. Aside from making notable contributions to DiCaprio's foundation, Low invested in the 2014 hit "The Wolf of Wall Street."

But that ironically connected the actor to a finance scandal. The Fugees member Prakazrel "Pras" Michel was accused of scheming with Low, who allegedly embezzled billions of dollars from a Malaysian government fund in order to invest in luxury items and films. The rapper allegedly used the embezzled money to lobby the United States government during the Obama and Trump administrations, hiding the identity of election funds from Malaysia in exchange for cash.

Michel, however, pleaded not guilty and has been trying to clear his name amid the scandal. "The common thread that runs through this is that Pras was trying to get the benefits for the United States that were being offered by Minister Sun," the rapper's attorney, David Kenner, said (via Bloomberg). "Pras' motivation was to try to assist the United States." Although the "Titanic" actor is only a witness in this situation, his business connection to Low still called DiCaprio to court to testify against Michel.

Leonardo DiCaprio testifies in court against Pras Michel

Besides Prakazrel "Pras" Michel, Jho Low has a lot of connections in the Hollywood industry. The disgraced financier briefly dated model Miranda Kerr, and he grew close to DiCaprio. And because Low allegedly used embezzled money to invest in "The Wolf of Wall Street," the film's star was ordered to answer questions about his relationship with Low and testify against Michel.

"I understood him to be a huge businessman with many different connections in Abu Dhabi and Malaysia," he said, per AP, adding that he carefully researched Low and his business before agreeing to anything, and indicating that he was under the impression the financier was a legitimate investor. "I was given the green light by my team as well as my studio. He was a legitimate business person wanting to invest in the movie."

The actor also talked about how the financier was planning to help fund the reelection campaign of former president Barack Obama. "It was a significant sum — something to the tune of $20-30 million," DiCaprio testified. "I said, 'Wow that's a lot of money!'" Although the case against Michel may be a recent happening, people seemed to be aware of Low's schemes earlier on.

Suspicions about Jho Low started in 2015

The making of the "The Wolf of Wall Street" movie wasn't all that easy. At first, Jordan Belfort –whose memoir of financial crimes and outrageous partying the film is based on — thought it was a great idea to have the famous director working on a film adaptation of his book, as well as have Leonardo DiCaprio star in it, but there were definitely some bumps in the road during the production process.

"When Marty and Leo commit to something, it doesn't mean it's getting done," Belfort told The Hollywood Reporter, mentioning that there was a big argument between production companies that hindered production. "And then the writers strike hits and it falls apart: Marty and Leo go off and do Shutter Island, and I'm devastated."

Nonetheless, production resumed later on, and in 2013, the movie was released under the indie production company Red Granite Pictures, which had investment ties to Jho Low. Two years after the movie's release in theaters, it was alleged that the investors were using money that was owned by the Malaysian government. But by 2018, the production company disbanded, and by 2020, the Malaysian government dropped some charges as items that were bought with the embezzled money were returned.