Leonardo DiCaprio has been accused by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro of “giving money to set the Amazon on fire”.
President Bolsonaro gave no evidence but in the past has accused NGOs critical of his policies of starting fires that ravaged the rainforest this year.
Several arrests have been made in Brazil amid controversial and unproven allegations fires were started to obtain funding.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who has pledged $5 million for the Amazon, denied President Bolsonaro’s claim.
The latest comments appear to arise from the arrest of 4 volunteer firefighters from northern Pará state on allegations they started fires to generate NGO donations.
NGOs, rights groups and critics claimed the police operation against them was politically motivated and an attempt to harass environmental groups.
Fires that burned in August this year caused global concern for the “lungs of the planet”.
Jair Bolsonaro’s latest accusation came during brief remarks at the presidential residence on November 29.
He said: “This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon.”
The president gave no evidence and did not elaborate, although the statement appeared to echo a live webcast he gave on November 28.
The live webcast revolved around the environmental organization, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and allegations, denied by the WWF, that it had paid for images taken by the arrested firefighters, who have since been released.
President Bolsonaro said: “So what did the NGO do? What is the easiest thing? Set fire to the forest. Take pictures, make a video. [WWF] makes a campaign against Brazil, it contacts Leonardo DiCaprio, he donates $500,000.
“A part of that went to the people that were setting fires. Leonardo DiCaprio, you are contributing to the fire in the Amazon, that won’t do.”
Leonardo DiCaprio and environmental activist released a statement saying: “Although they are certainly worth supporting, we have not funded the organizations that are currently under attack.
“The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to be part of the groups that protect them.”
The actor praised “the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage”.
WWF also said it had received no donations from the actor, whose Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation focuses on environmental projects.