Ex-Fugees rapper Pras Michel found guilty in scheme to help China influence US government

Pras Michel has been found guilty in a scheme to help China influence US govt.
Pras Michel has been found guilty in a scheme to help China influence US govt. Photo credit: Getty Images

The rapper Pras Michel has been found guilty in federal court in Washington on Wednesday (US time) of 10 criminal counts related to an international conspiracy reaching the highest levels of the US government.

The Grammy-winning artist and former member of the Fugees faced multiple counts over the failed conspiracy to help Malaysian businessman Jho Low and the Chinese government gain access to US officials, including former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Michel testified last week that Low paid Michel US$20 million in 2012 in order to get a picture of himself with Obama and prosecutors alleged Michel funnelled over US$800,000 of that money to Obama's campaign through a number of straw donors.

In his defence, Michel testified he never used the money at Low's direction but instead saw it as his money which he could spend however he wanted.

"I could have bought 12 elephants with it," he told the jury.

When Trump came to power in 2017 and investigations started to ramp up into Low and his alleged role in billions of dollars being embezzled from 1MBD, the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, Low went to Michel again, prosecutors alleged.

According to the prosecutors, Low directed over US$100 million to Michel to help push the government, including Trump, to drop its investigation into Low. Prosecutors also say Michel advocated for the extradition of a Chinese dissident, Guo Wengui, on behalf of the Chinese government.

Michel, however, testified he only tried to help Low find an attorney in the US and only told authorities about Guo because he thought he was a criminal. The former Fugees member also said the US$100 million was for a media business he was starting and the investment wasn't from Low.

Low, who was charged along with Michel, is believed to be in China.

Guo has since been arrested and charged by the Justice Department with defrauding investors in an unrelated case.