WASHINGTON (AP) — A Fugees rapper accused of multimillion-dollar political conspiracies that spanned two presidencies was found guilty Wednesday after a trial that included testimony ranging from actor Leonardo DiCaprio to former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Prakazrel “Pras” Michel was charged with funneling money from a now-fugitive Malaysian financier through fictitious donors to Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and then trying to silence a Justice Department investigation and influencing a criminal case. extradition on behalf of China under the Trump administration.
The defense argued that the Grammy-winning rapper of the 1990s hip-hop group The Fugees simply wanted to make money and received bad legal advice while reinventing himself in the world of politics.
Michel met Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho in 2006, when the businessman generally known as Jho Low was spending huge sums of money and hobnobbing with the likes of Paris Hilton.
Low helped finance Hollywood movies, including “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
DiCaprio testified that Low had introduced himself to him as a legitimate businessman and mentioned that he wanted to donate to the Obama campaign.
Michel also testified in his own defense.
He said Low wanted a photo with Obama in 2012 and was willing to pay millions of dollars to get it. Michel agreed to help and used some of the money he earned to pay his friends to attend fundraisers.
No one had ever told him that it was illegal, he said.
Prosecutors said Michel was donating the money on Low’s behalf, and then tried to lean on the front men with disposable phone text messages to prevent them from speaking to investigators.
After Donald Trump’s election, prosecutors say Michel again took millions to stop an investigation into allegations Low masterminded a money laundering and bribery scheme that stole billions from the state investment fund of Malaysia known as 1MDB.
Low is now an international fugitive and has maintained his innocence.
Michel was also paid to try to persuade the United States to extradite a government critic suspected of committing crimes there to China without registering as a foreign agent, prosecutors said.
On that charge, the defense pointed to testimony from Sessions, who was Trump’s top law enforcement officer until he resigned in 2018.
Sessions said he knew the Chinese government wanted the extradition, but he did not know Michel.
The rapper’s ultimately futile efforts to arrange a meeting on the issue did not seem inappropriate, the former attorney general said.