Grammy-winning rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel has been convicted of 10 charges, including conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent, for his role in multimillion-dollar political schemes.
Michel was accused of funneling money from Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho through straw donors to Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, before attempting to obstruct a Justice Department investigation and influence an extradition case for China under the Trump administration.
Michel’s defence argued that he simply wanted to make money and had received bad legal advice. Michel plans to appeal the decision.
Low, who helped finance Hollywood films such as “The Wolf of Wall Street” and hobnobbed with celebrities including Paris Hilton, has been accused of masterminding a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions from the Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB.
Michel’s defense argued that he was donating money on Low’s behalf and that he had no idea what he was doing was illegal when he used some of the funds to pay for friends to attend fundraising events.
Prosecutors also accused Michel of accepting money to try and influence the US government to extradite a Chinese government critic who was suspected of crimes in China. Michel did not register as a foreign agent. Former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified that Michel’s ultimately futile attempts to arrange a meeting on the topic did not seem improper, but prosecutors argued that he had leaned on straw donors to keep them from talking to investigators.
Michel first met Low in 2006, when Low was dropping huge sums of money and hobnobbing with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio testified that Low appeared to him as a legitimate businessman and mentioned wanting to donate to Obama’s campaign.