Before his court trial, Pras Michel, a defendant, was presented with an arrangement by the justice department that would save him from a lengthy prison sentence. If he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, he would avoid more than two years in prison and get to retain $50 million of his $100 million fortune. Michel and his attorney, however, rejected the proposal.
The rapper, a member of the group Fugees, was found guilty of all charges related to a multimillion-dollar political conspiracy across two presidencies on Wednesday. The trial saw statements from actor Leonardo DiCaprio and ex-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Michel was implicated in channeling funds from a Malaysian financer who is now a fugitive to Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, an attempt to interrupt a justice department investigation and sway an extradition case for China under President Trump.
A Washington, D.C., federal jury ruled him guilty of all the accusations, including acting as an unregistered overseas government agent and conspiracy. The defense maintained that the Grammy-winning artist sought to accumulate wealth but received poor legal counsel as he transitioned into the political world.
Michel refrained from commenting after the verdict, though his lawyer expressed immense disappointment with the outcome and disclosed plans to contest it. “This case is far from over,” stated attorney David Kenner confidently.
A relationship between Michel and the Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho originated in 2006. Known as Jho Low, the businessman associated with Paris Hilton and contributed majorly to Hollywood films, including “The Wolf of Wall Street”. DiCaprio testified that Low seemed to be an authentic businessman and had expressed a desire to support Obama’s campaign.
While defending himself, Michel revealed that Low aspired to have a photograph taken with Obama and was ready to pay millions for it. Michel accepted to facilitate this and expended some of the funds he received to invite friends to fundraisers. According to him, he hadn’t been made aware that this was unlawful.
Prosecutors stated that Michel gave money on Low’s behalf and later tried to pressure the straw donors into not cooperating with investigators using burner phones. They also claim that Michel took millions more after Trump’s election to cease an investigation into allegations that Low had orchestrated a money laundering operation and bribery scheme that stole billions from the Malaysian state-funded 1MDB. Low, now wanted globally, denies the charges.
Prosecutors also alleged that Michel was compensated for trying to convince the U.S. to extradite a Chinese critic back to China but he didn’t register as a foreign agent as required.
In response to this, the defense highlighted Session’s testimony. The ex-attorney general stated that he was aware of the Chinese government’s extradition desire but didn’t know Michel. Moreover, he believed that Michel’s unsuccessful attempts to schedule a meeting on the subject were not inappropriate.