Fugees rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel has been convicted in the United States of conspiring with the financier at the centre of Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal to illegally lobby the US government.
Michel was accused of funnelling money from the fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho to the 2012 reelection campaign of former US President Barack Obama and lobbying the Justice Department during former President Donald Trump’s tenure to drop investigations into Low’s alleged corruption.
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Michel, who achieved fame in the 1990s with hits including “Ready or Not” and “Killing Me Softly”, was also alleged to have lobbied Washington on behalf of China to send dissident Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui back to China.
A jury in Washington, DC convicted Michel on all 10 counts he was charged with, including conspiracy, falsifying campaign finance records, witness tampering and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government.
Michel faces up to 20 years in prison under the most serious of the charges.
Michel’s defence had argued the Grammy-winning rapper had received bad legal advice and had simply wanted to make money.
Michel declined to comment after the verdict but his lawyer David Kenner told reporters he was “extremely disappointed” by the verdict and was confident it would be overturned on appeal.
“I remain enormously confident that this case is not over and that we will ultimately prevail,” Kenner said.
Michel’s conviction followed a closely-watched trial that featured prominent witnesses including Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Trump-era Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
DiCaprio, whose 2013 film Wolf of Wall Street is alleged to have been financed with money stolen from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund, testified about Low’s lavish spending habits and connections during the trial, describing him as a “sort of prodigy in the business world.”
Low, who is now an international fugitive believed to be hiding in China, is alleged to have helped funnel billions of dollars stolen from 1MDB into luxury property, fine art and Hollywood films.
Low, who faces charges in New York of embezzling $4.5bn, has maintained his innocence.