While many New York residents may have enjoyed Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street”, few will be aware that the Oscar-winning actor is in some ways connected to a federal money laundering investigation over his involvement in the project. DiCaprio released a statement in October 2016 revealing that he has assisted investigators who are tracking about $3.5 billion that was allegedly misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.
Part of the money is said to have been used to finance the 2013 film, and DiCaprio says that he helped investigators determine whether or not he or his foundation had received any of the funds. The fund was originally set up to encourage economic development, but federal prosecutors say that the money was used to buy impressionist masterpieces, acquire luxury real estate and finance lavish gambling trips to Las Vegas. The Malaysian prime minister says that he has done nothing wrong.
Media reports suggest that prosecutors are close to sealing a $1 billion agreement to settle the case. All of the parties involved are said to be willing to negotiate, and an extension was filed in a California court on May 16 that would give lawyers on both sides until June 14 to draft a final agreement. The $1 billion figure would make the anti-kleptocracy case case the largest in U.S. history.
While not all federal white collar crimes involve such large sums, most are complex and difficult for prosecutors to litigate. Juries may become bored or find it difficult to keep up when they are subjected to hours of complicated financial testimony, and experienced criminal defense attorneys may encourage prosecutors to settle these matters quickly to avoid the costs and risks associated with a protracted court battle.