Paintings by Picasso and Basquiat could soon be handed over to the FBI as part of an investigation into a US$4.5 billion (£3.5 billion) Malaysian embezzlement scheme.
Given to the actor Leonardo DiCaprio as gifts, the artworks were purchased by individuals caught up in the US Justice Department’s investigation into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund.
Public money spent by the fund established by the Malaysia prime minister in 2009 was used for extravagant purchases. These included the US$3.2 million (£2.5 million) Picasso and the US$9 million (£7.1 million) collage by Basquiat, which DiCaprio is now offering to return to the Justice Department.
The US$4.5 billion (£3.5 billion) laundered through the political development scheme was also partly used to fund Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ starring DiCaprio in the title role.
In a recent complaint filed by the US Attorney’s Office in California it is stated that Picasso’s ‘Nature Morte au Crane de Taureau’ was gifted to DiCaprio on the occasion of his 38th birthday by an associate of financier and art collector Low Taek Jho (Jho Low). The art collector’s involvement in the money laundering scheme was revealed in a complaint filed in July 2016 by the Justice Department.
Another birthday gift, Basquiat’s ‘Redman One’ collage, was bought by the Tanore financing corporation. Tanore is understood to be held by Jho Low and received funds from 1MDB.
Several artworks have already been seized as part of the US-led investigation into 1MDB including Van Gogh’s drawing ‘La Maison de Vincent à Arles’ and two paintings by Monet.