Ex-Fugees rapper charged in campaign finance case

Ex-Fugees rapper charged in campaign finance case

Kerry Wise
May 12, 2019

A founding member of the hip-hop group the Fugees and a flamboyant Malaysian businessman have been indicted for making illegal contributions to United States president Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.

Mr Michel was known to be a strong supporter of Barack Obama, who was re-elected president in that year.

Low, also known as Jho Low, is a key figure in what is known as the 1MDB scandal, which has rocked Malaysian political and financial circles.

The charges against fugitive businessman Jho Taek Low and onetime Fugees member Prakazrel "Pras" Michel stem from a broad federal effort to track billions of dollars Low has already been accused of stealing from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund - a portion of which has allegedly been used to attempt to influence USA government officials.

According to the unsealed indictment, between June 2012 and November 2012, Low directed the transfer of approximately $21.6 million from foreign entities and accounts to Michel to be funneled into the USA election while disguising it as legitimate campaign contributions.

The indictment did not reveal the identity of the presidential candidate. It's hardly surprising that organizations that supported Obama were also accepting foreign donations to support his campaign.

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Michel has also been charged with "one count of a scheme to hide material facts and two counts of making a false entry in a record in connection with the conspiracy". The Justice Department argued that the funds came into the country during a six-month winder between June and November 2012.

"Mr. Michel is extremely disappointed that so many years after the fact the government would bring charges related to 2012 campaign contributions", Barry Pollack, an attorney for Michel, said in a statement.

Michel also directed $1 million of Low's funds to an "independent expenditure committee" also involved in the 2012 presidential election, authorities said.

According to prosecutors, Michel helped set up bank accounts to facilitate the movement of Low's money without disclosing to the banks that Low was the source of the funds.

A spokesperson for Mr Low said: "The allegations against Mr Low have no basis in fact".

Low was indicted previously, along with former banker Ng Chong Hwa, also known as "Roger Ng", in the Eastern District of NY for conspiring to launder billions of dollars and to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the release stated.