Pras Michél, a member of the groundbreaking hip-hop 1990s group the Fugees, is facing felony charges for his role in an alleged multimillion-dollar international financial conspiracy. At the center of the scandal is Low Taek Jho, CEO of Hong Kong-based private equity investment and advisory firm Jynwel Capital.
Low is a Malaysian national at the center of the conspiracy. He cozied up to Hollywood celebrities and, at one point, financed the film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
After pleading his innocence, he’s about to go to trial. The thing is, according to reports, if he had agreed to be a government informer, he would have faced a much more pleasant outcome. Pras, born Prakazrel Samuel Michel, refused. His trial starts on March 27.
Pras got entangled in “one of the century’s great financial scandals, mediated a high-stakes negotiation between global superpowers, and was accused of major crimes,” Bloomberg reported. The story reads like a spy movie.
It’s been a long journey full of twists, that even Kimora Lee Simmons’ estranged husband, Tim Leissner, got involved in the financial scheme and now faces 25 years in prison. Leissner is a former Goldman Sachs banker.
Pras reportedly first met Low in 2006 and got closer to him in 2011. Low Taek Jho is “wanted in a global corruption probe in connection with the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) state fund,” the Star reported. Jhud Low is wanted for embezzlement and bribery concerning the Malaysian state development fund. And some of this money was used to produce a Hollywood film and to bribe officials in the U.S. Department of Justice. And caught up in the international scandal is Pras.
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Then Low allegedly began funneling money through Pras, including money to donate to the 2012 Obama campaign, which is illegal for foreign nationals. There was a lot of money being thrown around. Officials later seized $95 million from Pras, who had also befriended influential Republicans to lobby President Donald Trump’s administration and to connect with high-powered Chinese officials, Vulture reported.
The FBI had been investigating Low and then Pras was caught in the web. FBI agents even interrupted Pras while he was having brunch near his apartment in SoHo, New York City, Bloomberg reported. An FBI agent pulled out photos of Chinese officials and questioned Pras about how he knew them and their meetings. It seems the hip-hop artists had gotten in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation between global superpowers.
The trial should reveal even more drama.
Pras had been offered a deal to plead guilty to a felony after many of the others involved in the conspiracy took deals but Pras turned it down. Seems he felt he had helped the government enough.
“Pras’s motivation was to try to assist the United States,” his attorney, David Kenner, said of Michél’s dealings with Jho Low.
“One of the most significant is that it would make him a felon by admitting to willful acts he didn’t believe were true,” Kenner told Businessweek.
Now, Pras is facing ten charges, including one for not registering as an agent of a foreign government, which carries up to a ten-year sentence.
Pras’ defense is attempting to call both Barack Obama and Donald Trump as witnesses, and prosecutors are hoping to call Leonardo DiCaprio, among others.
Pras Michel seen at Open Road Films Premiere of “Fifty Shades of Black” at Regal L.A. Live on Jan. 26, 2016, in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Open Road Films/AP Images)/In this April 23, 2015 file photo, Jho Low, Director of the Jynwel Foundation, poses at the launch of the Global Daily website in Washington, D.C. The Justice Department on Nov. 1, 2018, charged the fugitive Malaysian financier in a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions of dollars from a Malaysian investment fund created to promote economic development projects in that country. The three-count indictment charges Low Taek Jho, who is also known as Jho Low, with misappropriating money from the state-owned fund and using it for bribes and kickbacks to foreign officials, to pay for luxury real estate, art and jewelry in the United States and to fund Hollywood movies, including “The Wolf of Wall Street.” (Photo by Stuart Ramson/Invision for the United Nations Foundation/AP Images)