Fugees rapper Pras Michel was 'willing to break any laws necessary to get paid' in alleged international fraud scheme, prosecutor said
The conspiracy and fraud trial of American rapper Pras Michel kicked off on Thursday.
Prosecutors alleged that Michel was involved in an international scheme to influence the US government.
Michel is accused of working with Malaysian businessman and fugitive Jho Low.
An award-winning American rapper and producer allegedly involved in an international fraud scheme to influence the US government was "willing to break any laws necessary to get paid," a federal prosecutor said during opening arguments on Thursday, according to several news reports.
Pras Michel, a 50-year-old musician best known as a member of the 1990s hip-hop group Fugees, is on trial for several criminal charges, including conspiring to make and conceal foreign campaign contributions and witness tampering.
Michel stands accused of funneling millions of dollars in payments from Malaysian businessman and fugitive Jho Low and covering up the source of that foreign money by using straw donors to contribute to President Barack Obama's 2012 reelection. Federal law prohibits foreign nationals from contributing to US elections.
Prosecutors also allege that Michel and Low, who has been accused of stealing more than $4 billion from his country's sovereign wealth fund, conspired to lobby President Donald Trump's administration in 2017 to drop an investigation into Low's finances and remove a Chinese dissident, Guo Wengui, from the US. Guo was arrested earlier this month on fraud and money-laundering charges.
In Washington, DC's federal district court, prosecutor Nicole Lockhart told jurors on Thursday that Michel's case is "filled with political intrigue, backroom dealing…burner phones and lies," NBC News reported.
"Low had money to burn and the defendant was willing to cash in at any turn," Lockhart said.
Michel has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, defense attorney David Kenner reserved his opening statement until after prosecutors rest their case, NBC reported. Kenner's previous clients include celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Suge Knight.
The trial, which is expected to last at least a month, could feature high-profile witnesses including Trump's former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former national security advisor H.R. McMaster, casino mogul Steve Wynn, and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in the 2013 film "The Wolf Of Wall Street" that Low helped fund.
If convicted, Michel could face up to 20 years in prison.
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