Another celebrity has been drawn into the case of fugitive financier Jho Low. Pras Michel, the rapper best known as a founding member of the Fugees, stands accused by the government of various alleged underhanded dealings with Low, including “a back-channel campaign to lobby the administration of President Donald Trump to drop an investigation” of Low and his infamous 1MDB development fund scandal. Recent legal filings from the government claim that over the course of his friendship with Jho Low, Pras Michel received a total of $100 million.
The case made headlines recently when actor Leonardo DiCaprio, whose 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” was partly financed by Low, was called to testify about his own associations with both Low and Michel. DiCaprio claimed to have been friends with Pras since the 1990s after meeting the rapper at a Fugees concert at the height of the group’s fame.
Jho Low has been living as a fugitive since the implosion of the 1MDB scandal that reportedly saw the embezzlement of $4.5 BILLION from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund. It’s one of the largest financial crimes of all time. Pras and Jho first met in 2006 at a nightclub in New York City.
As the prosecutor in Michel’s case put it:
“This is a case about foreign money, foreign influence and concealment.“
“The defendant wanted money and was willing to break any laws necessary to get paid.“
“The defendant, Prakazrel [Pras] Michel, received over $100 million from Jho Low, a foreign fugitive responsible for one of the largest embezzlement schemes in history… To use backchannel influence to convince the then-President of the United States to drop a federal investigation into Low and to agree to the extrajudicial removal of a Chinese exile living in the United States.“
Michel is accused of taking almost $2 million out of a sum of $21.6 million that was transferred to him by Low and contributing it to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, which was an alleged violation of laws designed to keep foreign money out of US election campaigns. He then also allegedly used his paid influence to encourage the expatriation of a wealthy Chinese dissident named Gui Wengui who was living in the US and had angered the Chinese government. He even allegedly went so far as to meet with Chinese government officials at a Four Seasons Hotel in New York City to discuss the case.
$8 – $40 million
Out of the $100 million Pras received from Jho Low, the government claims he pocketed somewhere in the range of $8 and $40 million for himself.
Michel has pled not guilty on all charges and he has rejected multiple plea deals saying he relied on advice from his own attorneys in all of his business dealings with Low. His attorneys say he was working in “America’s best interest” when he lobbied the Trump administration, and that he didn’t realize at the time that the circumstances legally required him to register as a “foreign agent” due to Low’s financial backing.
Casino mogul Steve Wynn and some Trump administration figures are also reportedly expected to testify in the case against Low and Michel.