The Fugees’ Pras Michel was found guilty of illegal lobbying

  • By Bernd Debussmann Jr
  • BBC News, Washington

image source, Good pictures

image caption,

Prakasrel “Brass” Michael told jurors he believed the money was “free money” from a Malaysian president.

Former Fugees musician Prakasrel “Brass” Michael has been found guilty of 10 charges, including corruption stemming from allegations he used money to influence the United States.

Michael received more than $100m (£80m) from Malaysian billionaire Joe Low, which US prosecutors said was used in two attempts to influence US politics.

The self-identified “celebrity surrogate” was also convicted of lobbying on behalf of the Chinese government.

The rapper now faces several years in prison.

Michael, 50, was convicted in a Washington DC court of campaign finance violations, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, witness tampering, and lying to banks.

His attorney, David Kenner, said he was disappointed by the trial’s outcome and plans to appeal.

“It’s not over,” Mr Kenner said. “I am very confident that we will ultimately win this case.”

Mr Kenner said he had also filed for a mistrial.

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio and former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified in the trial, which began on March 30.

The Grammy Award-winning musician was accused of bringing “secret, illegal, foreign influence” during the administrations of Barack Obama and Donald Trump between 2012 and 2017.

Mr Low, the businessman who paid Michael, was accused of stealing $4 billion from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund during the infamous 1MDB scandal.

In addition, Michael is accused of receiving money from China to lobby US authorities to extradite US-based dissident Guo Wengui back to China.

Nicole Lockhart, the government’s lead prosecutor, told jurors that Michael was “looking for other ways to make money” after his music career stalled.

He also said he “saw an opportunity to make money” through Mr Low, who “needed a different kind of help” to avoid the consequences of the 1MDB scheme.

While Michael admitted taking payments from Mr Lowe – including $20m for a photo with Mr Obama – he called the payments “free money”.

Michael, who took the stand in his own defense, also said he felt “betrayed” by his advisers and staff, who he said gave him bad advice on how to handle money and avoid breaking the law.

However, he admitted it was “stupid” to approach “friends” who were “getting visits” from the FBI about campaign contributions — leading to his witness tampering charges.

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