4 International Scandals Starring The Most Random Celebrities Possible
Most celebrity scandals are pretty boring—there’s only so many times a Hollywood superstar can cheat on his wife with his cult leader’s telepathic clone before people lose interest. But every so often a celebrity somehow wanders onto the wrong yacht at Cannes and gets caught up in the world of international intrigue. And when that happens, things usually turn into a ludicrous farce right out of a comedy movie, albeit one directed by the third brother the Coens usually keep hidden in the basement.
Qatar Allegedly Invested In Ice Cube's Basketball League As Part Of A Plot To Bribe Steve Bannon
Ice Cube is one of the most influential rappers of all time, although if your knees don’t click when you stand up you’re probably more familiar with him as the star of hit movies like Stop Or My Dog Will Sing or Friday 5: Wednesday. Either way, he’s clearly reached the level of financial success where all your investments sound like a joke business from 30 Rock, because he currently co-owns a professional three-on-three basketball league called BIG3 Basketball. The league has been a huge success, with literally dozens of people tuning in every week to watch beloved teams like Three’s Company, Trilogy, 3 Headed Monsters, Tri-State, and the Ghost Ballers (who apparently did not get the memo about team names). But the league ran into controversy in 2018, when it accused its own Qatari investors of plotting to bribe Steve Bannon.
Strap in, because we’re about to throw a lot of info at you. BIG3 was founded by Ice Cube and a guy called Jeff Kwatinetz, a successful Hollywood agent who manages Cube’s production company. Kwatinetz also happens to be a close friend and former business partner of Steve Bannon, the conservative activist who was Donald Trump’s top adviser until several political missteps led to him leaving the White House via a trapdoor into a shark tank in 2017. After Bannon rose to prominence, Kwatinetz even did a high-profile interview defending him, saying that Bannon “was not a racist,” but a “brilliant guy” who “helped me sell my sneaker company, Pony.” Basically imagine House of Cards, if Frank was inexplicably friends with E from Entourage.
Meanwhile, BIG3 Basketball had hit the jackpot when it secured a multi-million dollar investment from Ahmed al-Rumaihi, a Qatari diplomat who managed a major government investment fund. However, according to BIG3, the Qataris never stumped up the full sum, instead demanding a meeting with Bannon, to the point that it became clear this was their only reason for investing in the league. Kwatinetz allegedly refused, at which point al-Ruhaimi reportedly laughed and said he "shouldn’t be so naive … do you think Michael Flynn has turned down our money?" This all led to Ice Cube and Kwatinetz filing a lawsuit, alleging that the Qatari Investment Authority had plotted to sink $11.5 million into a three-on-three basketball league in order to bribe the White House Chief Strategist.
The Qatari government insists it had no involvement with BIG3, which was a private investment by al-Rumaihi. And al-Rumaihi insists that he had no interest at all in a meeting with Steve Bannon and simply withheld the other half of his investment after realizing BIG3 lacked basic corporate governance and was being run like an “events management company” with no business plan or oversight. He additionally said that Kwatinetz refused to professionalize the company and randomly offered to set up a meeting with Bannon instead, which al-Rumaihi refused. The legal wrangling is currently ongoing, with al-Rumaihi claiming diplomatic immunity and BIG3 suing their own law firm for allegedly secretly working for Qatar. Which all sounds very complicated, so we’d like to suggest that both sides abandon the lawsuit and simply stake the rest of the money on history’s highest-stakes game of three-on-three basketball.
Pras From The Fugees Is Currently Under Indictment For Trying To Bribe The Government Into Extraditing A Chinese Billionaire
The Fugees were one of the defining acts of the '90s, but it’s fair to say that they’ve gone on to some unusual solo careers. Wyclef Jean has been accused of stealing millions of dollars in charitable donations following the 2010 Haitian Earthquake, while Lauryn Hill usually insists on showing up for concerts three months late and in the wrong country. But for pure weirdness, neither can match their former bandmate Pras, who is currently being charged with trying to bribe the president into pardoning a fugitive financier.
Pras’s problems started when he met a guy named Jho Low, who made his money the old-fashioned way—by befriending the Malaysian prime minister’s sleazy stepson. Prime Minister Razak was so impressed by the young man that he appointed him an adviser to the country’s 1MDB investment fund. Over the next few years, billions of dollars were looted from the fund and transferred to the private bank accounts of Razak’s family and Low. For his part, Low used the money to live the high life, paying celebrities like Paris Hilton millions of dollars to hang out with him. He even produced The Wolf of Wall Street, apparently mostly as a way to cozy up to Leonardo di Caprio, who regularly partied with Low, including a memorable New Year’s Eve when the pair welcomed the new year in Australia, then jumped on Low’s private jet with Jamie Foxx and Jonah Hill and flew across the international date line to do the countdown to midnight all over again in Las Vegas.
Pras quickly became part of Low’s inner circle after attending a star-studded birthday party where Britney Spears jumped out of a cake to sing “Happy Birthday” to the financier. In fact, Pras and Low became so close that they’re now charged with illegally trying to influence not one, but two separate US presidents. In 2019, the pair were charged with illegally channeling over $20 million in foreign donations to the 2012 Barack Obama reelection effort. Now, new charges have been added, claiming that they also used millions of looted 1MDB funds on a secret lobbying campaign to persuade Donald Trump to drop all investigations into the 1MDB scandal.
According to the Department of Justice, Pras and Low paid former Trump lobbyist Elliot Broidy at least $9 million to engage in an illegal lobbying campaign aimed at getting the charges against Low dropped. And while this was going on, Pras also allegedly took millions from the government of China to lobby for the extradition of a dissident Chinese billionaire. Pras is currently fighting the charges, but fortunately it seems like he’s found an easier way to make money in the meantime —the Fugees just announced a reunion tour. Make sure you catch an early show though, since “Ready Or Not” doesn’t sound quite the same when one of the performers is literally phoning it in from a deposition.
Boris Becker Used A Fake Diplomatic Passport To Get Out Of Bankruptcy Proceedings
Boris Becker became the biggest tennis star of the late '80s when he won Wimbledon at 17. He went on to rack up five more major wins before retiring at the age of just 31. Since then, he's developed a reputation as one of Europe's most scandalous playboys. Most notoriously, he once had a steamy encounter with a Russian model in the broom cupboard of London’s trendiest restaurant—while his wife was in hospital giving birth to their child. But Becker’s good times apparently ended in 2017, when he was declared bankrupt with debts of over $17 million. With that kind of debt, Becker faced living in a broom cupboard, but fortunately he had an out.
In 2018, Becker sensationally claimed he had been made the Central African Republic’s Attaché for Sports/Humanitarian/and Cultural Affairs. This wide-ranging portfolio came as a surprise to seasoned diplomats, mostly because Becker openly admitted he had never even been to the Central African Republic, although he added that “whenever I have a week free I’d love to visit.” His enthusiasm for the appointment became a little clearer after he claimed that the role had granted him diplomatic immunity from all lawsuits and bankruptcy proceedings.
Helpfully located in central Africa, the Central African Republic has certainly had its fair share of problems over the years—at one point the country’s leader spent a third of the government’s budget on an extravagant ceremony to crown himself emperor. But even the CAR generally draws the line at raffling off diplomatic immunity to anyone struggling with a tricky court case. The country’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that Becker had not been appointed a diplomat by anyone there and that the attaché position “does not exist.”
Further investigation revealed that Becker’s diplomatic passport came from a batch that had been stolen in 2014 and had not been officially stamped or signed by the foreign minister. The passport was ultimately traced back to Stephan Welk, a self-proclaimed African diplomat who had been selling fake passports to gullible rich people for years. And this was all uncovered thanks to the 1989 US Open winner claiming that he never had to repay any loans due to diplomatic immunity. Thanks Boris!
Naomi Campbell Had To Testify In Front Of A War Crimes Tribunal Over A Dictator's Diamond
Like all international scandals, this one started with a swanky party at Nelson Mandela's house to celebrate the launch of a new luxury train company. Among the guests were Naomi Campbell, Mia Farrow, and for some reason Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. It must have been a magical evening, since Taylor fell madly in love with Campbell (hearing a bunch of speeches about trains has that effect on people). In fact, he was so entranced with the supermodel that apparently he sent his bodyguards to deliver a bag full of diamonds to her room later that night. We would probably have just tried asking for her phone number, but hey, to each his own.
Flash-forward 13 years and Taylor found himself on trial in the Hague for war crimes. Among the charges was that he had sold weapons to Sierra Leone’s bloodthirsty RUF militia in exchange for conflict diamonds, which he then secretly exported in mayonnaise jars. But Taylor always denied trading in diamonds. And that's when the prosecution remembered Naomi Campbell.
Campbell had been refusing to discuss the diamonds for years, at least partly by punching the camera out of the hands of any TV reporter who asked about them. She also refused to testify until forced to under subpoena, informing the court that “Well, I didn't really want to be here so I was made to be here. So obviously I'm just like wanting to get this over with and get on with my life. This is a big inconvenience for me.” Under questioning, Campbell admitted to receiving several “dirty-looking” stones, saying that she initially did not recognize them as diamonds. According to Campbell, she had no idea that the stones were from Taylor, as so many random people just hand her large gems in the middle of the night that she didn't ask any questions.
The defense actually tried to claim this as a win, since Campbell couldn’t say for sure that the stones were from Taylor. But her testimony was contradicted by Mia Farrow, who said Campbell told her over breakfast that the stones were indeed a gift from the dictator. Also, there’s a pretty limited number of people in the world who would hand out uncut diamonds to random acquaintances, and we’re pretty sure we can rule out Nelson Mandela. In any case, Charles Taylor was ultimately convicted on all charges. And we’re off to ponder what the hell is going on in Naomi Campbell’s life that testifying at a war crime’s tribunal counts as an “inconvenience” and not “the craziest thing to ever happen to me.”
Top image: Philip Litevsky