(RightWing.org) – Sometimes, ultra-wealthy foreign nationals take an interest in American politics for the purpose of laundering large sums of money. They often do so by putting it into the coffers of those they like to see in office through a third party. The behavior doesn’t always go unnoticed. As a result, the unsuspecting person can find themselves facing stiff legal ramifications. Grammy award-winning rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel was the founder of the popular 1990s group, The Fugees, found out the hard way after he was convicted by a federal jury on April 26.
Michel was indicted in 2019 for allegedly funneling money from Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho (a.k.a. Jho Low) to the 2012 reelection campaign of former president Barack Obama and to PACs supporting him directly through a series of so-called “straw donors” to evade federal election laws.
In June 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) added charges alleging that the two men engaged in a “back-channel lobbying campaign” to influence President Donald Trump’s administration to drop the investigation into Low and to “send a high-profile dissident of the PRC [People’s Republic of China] living in the United States back to [the Communist nation].”
The attempt to influence the extradition on behalf of the PRC involved billionaire Ho Wan Kwok (a.k.a. Guo Wengui), who was living in exile from his homeland and is now in the custody of US federal authorities and facing several fraud and conspiracy charges of his own. Low became a fugitive from justice in 2015 in both the United States and Kuwait, where he had been tried and convicted in absentia and sentenced to 10 years in prison in the Middle Eastern nation. He is believed to be hiding in China to avoid the long arm of the law.
Michel’s defense attorneys attempted to subpoena testimony from a somewhat star-studded group, many of which the judge quashed including:
- Donald Trump, 45th president,
- Barack Obama, 44th president,
- Dr. Ben Carson, MD, the Former Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and
- Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
However, the jurors did hear testimony from the likes of former United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The New York Post reported that the Titanic actor testified to a conversation he had with Low, with whom he was acquainted, where the Malaysian national said he wanted to donate $20-$30 million to the Obama reelection campaign.
During his trial, Michel took the stand in his own defense and admitted he had taken $20 million from Low over a nine-month period in 2012, claiming he was going to use the money to somehow secure a much-desired photograph with Obama. He also admitted to paying for three of his friends to attend fundraisers for the former president’s campaign but claimed he did it on his own and was advised by longtime friend and a now-former Justice Department lawyer, George Higginbotham, that he did not have to register as a foreign agent.
Higginbotham had already pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his own involvement with Low’s schemes, including the attempt to influence the Trump administration’s stance on the extradition of Ho. In Michel’s trial, he testified that he undertook that task at the defendant’s insistence.
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