Including corruption, stemming from allegations that he used money to peddle influence in the United States,.former Fugees rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel has been found guilty on ten counts.
According to US prosecutors, Michel had received more than $100M from Malaysian billionaire Jho Low that was used to influence North American politics, and was also convicted of lobbying on behalf of the Chinese government.
Currently facing multiple years in prison, the musician was convicted in a Washington DC court of campaign finance violations, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, witness tampering and lying to banks.
Starting 30 March, the trial saw testimony from Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio, and former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
During the Barack Obama and Donald Trump presidential administrations, between 2012 and 2017, the Grammy-winning musician was accused of bringing “secret, illegal, foreign influence to bear.”
Funneling money to Michel, Businessman Mr Low is accused of stealing some 4MDB from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund during the 1MDB scandal, and currently wanted by the US government, Low allegedly helped finance DiCaprio’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street with money stolen from the sovereign fund.
Michel was alleged to have helped lobby Trump-administration officials to abandon their investigation into Mr Low’s part in it, and was also accused of taking money from China to lobby American officials to extradite a US-based dissident, Guo Wengui, back to China.
Nicole Lockhart, the government’s lead prosecutor, told jurors that Michel had been “looking for other ways to be paid” after his music career stalled, and added that he had seen an “opportunity to make money” through Mr Low, who “needed a different type of help” to avoid the consequences of the 1MDB scheme.
While Michel admitted to accepting money from Mr Low – including $20M to facilitate him getting a photo with Mr Obama – he said he had viewed the payments as “free money”. Taking the stand in his own defense, Pras said he also felt “betrayed” by his advisers and employees who he claimed had offered him bad advice on how to handle money and avoid breaking the law. He acknowledged that it had been “stupid” to reach out to “friends” who were “getting visits” from the FBI about campaign contributions – an idea that led to his witness tampering charges.
Filing motions for a mistrial, Pras’ lawyer, David Kenner, said that he was disappointed with the outcome of the trial and planned to file an appeal, stating “This is not over.” “I remain very, very confident that we will ultimately prevail in this matter.”