Pras Michel Convicted in Federal Conspiracy Case
The Fugees’ Pras Michel was convicted on federal charges of conspiracy and falsifying records for his role in a multimillion-dollar government influence campaign that involved both the Obama and Trump administrations.
Michel was convicted of all 10 counts against him, as The Washington Post reports. Those charges included money laundering, illegal lobbying, witness tampering, and campaign finance violations.
As Rolling Stone outlined in a recent feature, the charges against Michel were tied to his relationship with Malaysian financier Jho Low. Low is accused of stealing $4.5 billion from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund, and prosecutors claimed Michel pocketed millions from helping Low run foreign-influence campaigns against the U.S. government. (Low was named as a co-defendant in the case, but is currently a fugitive.)
Michel was accused of funneling money from Low to Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, as well as lobbying Donald Trump’s administration to drop an investigation into Low and extradite dissident Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui.
Michel continually maintained his innocence, telling Rolling Stone, “What benefit would I get trying to break laws? It’s not worth it to me. I’m like a pariah now. I’ve got friends who won’t talk to me because they think there’s a satellite in orbit listening to them.”
Michel’s trial lasted just over a month and featured testimony from several prominent figures, including Leonardo DiCaprio, and former Trump administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In a rare move, Michel even took the stand on his own behalf, discussing his relationship with Low, revealing he voluntarily met with the FBI concerning China’s efforts to extradite Guo, and he insisted he never made any political donations on Low’s behalf.
Despite the tangled web of relationships and players involved, prosecutor Sean F. Mulryne argued to the jury during closing arguments that the case wasn’t that complicated. “At its core, it is simple and straightforward: Mr. Michél broke the law,” he said.
Michel’s attorney, David E. Kenner, pushed back, arguing his client “did not willfully and deliberately funnel campaign contributions.” Instead, Kenner said Michel was just “trying to make money, a lot of money,” through his work with Low. “And you know what?” Kenner added. “It is not illegal to make money.” (Kenner did not immediately return Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.)
As Michel previously discussed with Rolling Stone, he met Low at a moment when he was eager to get into politics. He said he believed it was “a way to try to help people” — but that perspective has, unsurprisingly, been muddied.
“I was one of those people who was just dabbling. I never thought I would be full-time into politics,” he said. “I realized politics is not for me. The problem with politics is this: It’s that the people within politics, they’re dirtier than the people who are not in politics.”