Pras Michel, a former Grammy-winning rapper from the hip-hop group the Fugees, could face up to 20 years in prison for his involvement in a complex scheme that turned him into a covert lobbyist for China along with a complex web of players, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
“Michel was the unlikely agent of flamboyant Malaysian businessman and fugitive Low Taek Jho, who paid the rapper to wield influence from the corridors of Washington D.C. to the mansions of Hollywood,” the UK’s Daily Mail reported on Friday.
“Michel, who netted $88 million through the scheme, was found guilty on Wednesday of ten counts, including conspiracy and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government. He was paid with money Low allegedly embezzled from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund,” the report continued.
It was discovered that the rapper illegally contributed funds to political causes, including Obama’s 2012 election campaign. In addition, he attempted to persuade senior Trump administration officials to end a federal investigation into Low and expel a Chinese billionaire dissident. According to the report, he was convicted by a federal jury following a trial that included testimony from Leonardo DiCaprio and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In the 1990s, The Fugees, comprised of members Michel, Wyclef Jean, and Lauryn Hill, reached the same level of fame and renown as Michael Jackson. In 1997, their second album, The Score, topped the Billboard 200 and won the Grammy for best rap album. It resulted in a number of chart-topping singles around the globe, making the group multimillionaires.
By 2012, Michel’s financial situation and popularity had declined. During the opening statement of his trial, Justice Department attorney Nicole Lockhart stated that Michel “needed money and was willing to do anything to get it.”
Michel and Low first met in 2006, according to the report. Low paid him $88 million between 2012 and 2017 to act as a sham donor and lobbyist for Low’s interests. The rapper assisted Low in directing funds through shell companies to the 2012 re-election campaign of then-president Barack Obama, concealing the source of the contributions.
In addition, Michel lobbied in 2017 to assist the Chinese government in retrieving the billionaire dissident Guo Wengui, who was a friend of the political strategist for President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon. Michel also advocated for the abandonment of an investigation into Low’s prominent involvement in the theft of billions of dollars from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund. the publication said.
He was accused of money laundering, violations of campaign finance laws, acting as an unregistered agent for China, concealing and falsifying records, tampering with witnesses, and making fraudulent statements. The Daily Mail noted that Michel and his legal team claimed that he was oblivious that his actions were illegal.
During Michel’s trial, a pivotal moment occurred in early April when Leonardo DiCaprio testified about his association with Low, a moment that was appropriately described as a spectacle. The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese and grossing over $400 million at the box office in 2013, was partially financed by Low.
The actor, who is not suspected of any wrongdoing, told the jury that he encountered Low in 2010 and attended numerous extravagant parties hosted by the financier. A-listers like Alicia Keys, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears attended Low’s events, which were held at upscale nightclubs and luxury yachts. Low’s influence was so pervasive that Spears once emerged from a birthday cake to wish him well.
More on this story via Conservative Brief:
“I understood [Low] to be a huge businessman with many different connections in Abu Dhabi and Malaysia… He was a prodigy in the business world and ultra-successful,” DiCaprio testified in court. CONTINUE READING…