Hollywood is known for glamour and money, but behind all of the luxuries, scandals and financial crime are on the rise. Globally, there has been an exponential rise of the anti-money laundering (AML) movement since regulatory standards heightened as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. It is estimated that there are about USD $1-2 trillion worth of money laundering transactions annually, however, “authorities currently seize less than 1% of global illicit financial flows” (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime). This leaves a large gap between the crime and what is being legally handled to combat terrorism, the drug trade, and political corruption rates.
At the first thought of money laundering, a person may think of big banks and politicians trying to gain more power but, most of the time, the stars portraying these corrupted roles on screen are actually major risks to AML compliance in reality, bringing financial crimes to the front-page of international tabloids.
A-list celebrities loved and worshiped by many such as Beyoncé Knowles, Jay-Z, and Leonardo DiCaprio are known to be part of AML probes.
In the case of Leonardo DiCaprio, he was given valuable gifts by Red Granite Pictures executives that are believed to have been purchased with a portion of the money funneled from the Malaysian Development (1MDB) Fund. This is ironic because Riza Aziz, the co-founder of Red Granite Pictures that produced the film The Wolf of Wall Street in which DiCaprio portrayed Jordan Belfort, a penny stockbroker who made millions of dollars in the early 1990’s by defrauding wealthy investors out of their money, is suspected of using $100 million in embezzled funds from the 1MDB Fund to cover production and marketing costs for the film. Although DiCaprio has been cooperative with the FBI and returned any gifts or donations he received, there is no intention of him forfeiting the money received for his work in the movie.
For the music couple, Jay-Z and Beyonce, they became involved in an AML probe earlier this year that is tied to Nigerian energy tycoon Kola Aluko who is under investigation for alleged money laundering crimes in Nigeria and Europe. Prior to the charges against Aluko for allegedly defrauding the government of oil sale profits, the couple rented Aluko’s $50 million luxury yacht for a vacation in Italy, paying $900,000 a week for it. Many believe Aluko is in hiding on the yacht as he has yet to be apprehended.
These cases demonstrate how even the most unlikely suspects can be involved in the widespread blanket of international financial crime.
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