Fugees rapper convicted of international political conspiracy
A rapper who was a member of the American hip hop group the Fugees has been convicted of orchestrating a sprawling international conspiracy involving funnelling millions of dollars from a fugitive Malaysian financier.
Prakazrel “Pras” Michel was found guilty of using money from Low Taek Jho to make illegal donations to Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign before trying to stymie a Justice Department investigation.
During a trial that included testimony from Leonardo DiCaprio and the former US attorney-general Jeff Sessions, Michel, 50, was also accused of trying to influence an extradition case on behalf of China. A jury at a federal court in Washington DC convicted Michel of all ten counts, including money laundering, witness tampering and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government.
Michel, a Grammy Award-winning rapper who found fame with the 1990s group Fugees, had denied the charges and said he was simply trying to make money but received bad legal advice.
“We are of course very disappointed,” the defence attorney David Kenner said outside court as his client stood beside him. “We will certainly appeal this case. This is not over. I remain very, very confident that we will prevail in this matter.”
The trial heard that Michel first met Low in 2006 when the businessman was spending fortunes rubbing shoulders with celebrities including Paris Hilton. He helped to finance Hollywood films, including The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio, who starred in the movie, said Low appeared to be a legitimate businessman.
Prosecutors said Michel was donating money to political campaigns on Low’s behalf, a violation of campaign finance laws. He later used burner phones to attempt to convince straw donors not to talk to investigators.
After Donald Trump was elected, Michel is said to have taken millions of dollars to attempt to halt an investigation into Low’s involvement in the sprawling 1MDB scandal. Low allegedly orchestrated a scheme to steal billions of dollars from the Malaysian state investment fund and is now an international fugitive.
A sentencing date for Michel has not been scheduled. He faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years behind bars.
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