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'I'm aware of it, but I don't give a s**t': De Niro on his link to Malaysia's corruption scandal.
Hollywood A-lister Robert De Niro is the latest high-profile name to be connected with ongoing investigations surrounding funds and assets linked to Malaysian state-investor 1MDB.
The Hollywood Reporter (THR) in an article on its website revealed that De Niro's name has appeared several times in connection with central figures in the U.S. Department of Justice's civil suit to recover up to US$1 billion in 1MDB-linked funds and assets.
The Oscar winning actor was quoted as saying he does not care that his name is being dragged into the global financial scandal.
"I don't care whether my name is associated with it. I didn't do anything," he said.
"I'm aware of it, but I don't give a s**t. When I have to tell something to somebody, I'll answer to them and that will be it," said De Niro.
In particular, the report highlighted De Niro's personal links to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, now understood to be the "Malaysian Official 1" (MO1) mentioned 36 times in the DOJ's suit.
THR also revealed that De Niro's son, Raphael De Niro, was the listing agent representing the sellers for two New York multi-million dollar properties purchased by tycoon Jho Low, allegedly using funds siphoned from 1MDB.
In February 2010, Low had splashed US$23.98 million on a penthouse at the Park Laurel luxury condominium in Lincoln Square.
The second property, a 76th-floor unit at the Time Warner Center overlooking Central Park, was purchased for US$30.55 million in early 2011.
Both New York properties are now facing seizure by the US federal agency, with the Park Laurel apartment having been sold in late 2012 to Najib's step son Riza Aziz — the co-founder of Red Granite — who is also named in the DOJ's filing.
De Niro first met Malaysian PM in 2010
According to THR, De Niro first met Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor on April 16, 2010, being among the guests at a star-studded event at the St Regis in New York.
The ceremony was held in honor of Najib (photo) and Rosmah who was there to receive the inaugural International Peace and Harmony Award presented by the Business Council for International Understanding.
THR said Rosmah had extended a personal invitation for De Niro to visit them in Kuala Lumpur, three months after their encounter, purportedly so that he would not "listen to all the wrong things" about Malaysia and "put things in the right perspective."
As for Low, De Niro reportedly said they first met at an A-list birthday party the businessman threw for himself in Las Vegas in 2012.
Low, De Niro said, had at the time expressed interest to fund one of his acting projects — Martin Scorcese's thriller "The Irishman."
"But that was just talk and a long time ago," he was quoted as saying.
De Niro's links to Low did not stop with a birthday party, however, THR reported.
According to the Jynwel Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Low's personal Jynwel Capital investment fund, it donated money to De Niro's Tribeca Film Institute and specifically to its Tribeca Teaches program.
A spokesperson for the Tribeca Film Institute told THR it does not comment on individual contributions but did not deny that the Jynwel Foundation had made a donation.
De Niro, meanwhile, said he "didn't know" how much Low's organisation had contributed.
He, however, said that he would aim to pay back any corrupt money received via Low through donations to his Tribeca Film Institute.
Back in Malaysia, Najib's critics had repeatedly called for his resignation following numerous allegations linked to financial mismanagements surrounding 1MDB.
This is on top of the latest allegations that US$731 million in 1MDB funds have been siphoned into MO1's personal bank account.
All Malaysian authorities investigating the case have cleared Najib of wrongdoing.
The police, however, have reopened their probe following recommendations from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The News Lens has been authorized to repost this article. The piece was first published on Malaysiakini.
(Launched on November 20, 1999, Malaysiakini.com offers daily news and views in English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil.)
First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole