Former Fugees rapper, Pras Michel was found guilty of his role in a massive international corruption scheme that involved allegations of money laundering, campaign finance violations, and fraud in one of the biggest scandals in the United States.
The verdict was handed down in a Washington, D.C. court on Wednesday afternoon after three weeks of testimony from a number of witnesses who all accused Pras of using his influence to assist foreign interests to sway the American government, including making campaign donations to Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump while collecting $100 million from a Malaysian businessman to interfere with and lobby American authorities to call off a criminal investigation into him.
Michél was on trial with a co-defendant- Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho who Prosecutor Sean F. Mulryne said orchestrated the theft of $4.5 billion of Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund and fled to the United States, where he lived wantonly and lavishly on the money and when authorities were creeping up on him, he shelled out hundreds of millions to “fixers” and illegal lobbyists to sway authorities to call off the investigations.
Prosecutors say Pras was a struggling musician turned entrepreneur who was approached in 2012 by Low to organize a photo op with President Obama for which he paid him $20 million.
Their relationship later developed to include Pras buying tickets to political events under a number of fake names and donating $1.1 million to an Obama political action committee, all illegal and done to secure an opportunity for Low to meet President Obama, prosecutors said.
Pras was represented by defense attorney David E. Kenner who voiced that his client was innocent.
“Mr. Michél did not willfully and deliberately funnel campaign contributions. He was trying to make money, a lot of money. And you know what? … It is not illegal to make money,” the attorney said, the Washington Post reported.
The prosecution also alleged that Pras knew his actions were criminal when he chose to assist Low, who was being investigated for the theft of Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.
An official who helped to raise funds for Donald Trump, Elliot Broidy, testified that he was hired to help Low avoid criminal charges by swaying the government from pursuing an investigation into Low, and it was agreed he would be paid $50 million or $75 million to assist.
Broidy said he asked Trump to join then-Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to go golfing. They were to discuss quashing the investigation under the cover of maintaining US-Malaysia relations, but the White House stepped in and blocked the golfing session. The former Malaysian president Razak is currently imprisoned in Malaysia for his role in the fund embezzlement.
Pras is accused of traveling with Broidy and others to meet with Low in China, where they discussed efforts to get the American government to extradite a Chinese dissident, Guo Wengui, to China in exchange for China helping Low with his problems.
Broidy and another person were accused of and pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). He was later pardoned by Trump, the Washington Post reported.
During his testimony, Pras shared that he became an FBI informant. He denied wrongdoing noting that he was not aware he had to register under the FARA Act to lobby for a foreign national.
Despite his testimony, the prosecution successfully argued that he had broken the law and ought to suffer the consequences.
Low, on the other hand, is a fugitive who is said to be residing in China.