Fugees rapper convicted in US over lobbying campaigns with Malaysian financier



By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A jury on Wednesday convicted Grammy Award-winning rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel of The Fugees hip hop group on felony prices that he conspired with a Malaysian financier to orchestrate a sequence of international lobbying campaigns geared toward influencing the U.S. authorities beneath two presidents.

His conviction in federal court docket in Washington adopted a trial that was stuffed with political intrigue and featured high-profile witnesses together with Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio and former U.S. Legal professional Normal Jeff Periods. Michel endured a blistering cross-examination by prosecutors whereas testifying in his personal protection.

Michel was charged with 10 counts of crimes together with conspiracy, performing as an agent of a international authorities, witness tampering and falsifying marketing campaign finance information. Prosecutors accused him of plotting with Malaysian businessman Jho Low to try to affect the administrations of Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Low, who additionally faces separate federal prices in New York that he embezzled $4.5 billion from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund, stays at giant.

Michel’s lawyer David Kenner advised reporters outdoors the courthouse he was “extraordinarily upset” by the decision, however stays hopeful the costs may very well be dismissed by the choose.

U.S. District Decide Colleen Kollar-Kotelly set deadlines for each events to file briefs on numerous post-trial motions, together with a request for a judgment of acquittal, that reach into July.

“I stay enormously assured that this case will not be over, and that we’ll finally prevail,” he added.

The Fugees received two Grammy Awards for his or her best-selling 1996 album “The Rating.” However by 2012, in accordance with prosecutors, Michel was in determined want of money and located an answer by Low, who was recognized to throw elaborate events and pay celebrities massive sums of cash.

Prosecutors stated Michel agreed to funnel about $2 million from Low into Obama’s 2012 re-election marketing campaign in alternate for receiving thousands and thousands of {dollars}. As a result of federal election legislation prohibits foreigners from donating to U.S. campaigns, prosecutors stated Michel masked the supply of the funds.

Michel was additionally accused of in search of to persuade the Trump-era Justice Division to drop civil and felony investigations into Low over the 1MDB scandal and attempting to foyer the U.S. authorities on behalf of China to ship Chinese language billionaire and dissident Guo Wengui again to China.

On the witness stand, Michel stated the $20 million Low paid him over the course of 9 months in 2012 was to assist Low safe a photograph with Obama. Michel acknowledged that he used a few of the cash to pay for 3 of his mates to attend two political fundraisers for Obama’s 2012 marketing campaign, however denied doing so at Low’s route.

“As soon as he gave me the cash, it was my discretion how I spent the cash as a result of it is my cash,” Michel advised the jury, describing the fee as “free cash.”

On whether or not he didn’t register as a international agent, Michel advised jurors that his lawyer George Higgenbotham by no means advised him it was required by legislation. Michel additionally stated he handed alongside info to the FBI about China’s need to have Guo extradited amid considerations by China that Guo was “allegedly a felony rapist,” saying he “thought it was one thing the FBI ought to know.”

Higgenbotham, who has since pleaded responsible for his position within the scheme, advised jurors that he met with the Chinese language ambassador in Washington at Michel’s insistence to guarantee the Chinese language that the Trump administration was working towards extraditing Guo.

Guo, who was by no means extradited, has since been indicted on unrelated fraud prices in New York.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Modifying by Will Dunham and Stephen Coates)

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