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The Grammy-winning artist ‘Pras’ Michel was convicted Wednesday on ten counts involving what prosecutors called a “clandestine foreign influence campaign scheme” involving Malaysian billionaire Jho Low. This marks the most concrete outcome so far of a federal investigation into Michel’s role in the scheme that began in 2019. Michel’s lawyers vowed to fight the charges before a final verdict is announced, as the celebrity rapper faces up to twenty years in prison on the most egregious offenses laid out in the case.

The case in question surrounds one of the biggest sovereign wealth fund frauds in recent history. The Malaysian government alleges that billions of dollars from the fund 1MBD were illegally funneled to the private account of Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman of Cantonese descent, who then used to gain political influence at home and abroad, including in the U.S. Federal prosecutors took the case as it pertained to the Obama presidential campaign under the Trump Administration.

Prosecutors have now concluded that as much as $100 million in embezzled funds were paid by Low to ex-Fugees rapper Prakazrel ‘Pras’ Michel, who accepted the donations and used at least $800,000 of it to influence the Obama re-election campaign through dummy donors in 2012. The billionaire also paid Michel to arrange a photo-op with Obama, which eventually materialized after nine months of lobbying efforts and $20 million in expense to Low.

The self-identified ‘celebrity surrogate’ was now convicted on ten charges related to the case, including corruption, campaign finance violations, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, witness tampering and lying to banks. He used only a fraction of the funds received to influence both the Obama and Trump campaigns from 2012 to 2017.

Michel and the defense team did not dispute the prosecutors’ account. Instead, they argued that the ‘90s musician was given bad legal advice regarding election interference laws, and genuinely believed, as he told the court, that the payments from Jho Low were ‘free money’ which he could use to buy “12 elephants” if he wanted.

During the court proceedings, ‘Pras’ Michel sat mostly silent and did not respond to the reporters outside. His lawyer David Kenner, however, expressed confidence in Pras’ innocence, saying: “We are extremely disappointed in that result but are very, very confident in the ultimate outcome of this case.” Kenner added: “If we do move to a sentencing hearing I remain very confident we will certainly appeal this case. This is not over.”

If sentenced by the jury, Michel could face multiple sentences of up to 20 years each.

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Anthony Tilghman, is an 3x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the 2020, 2021 & 2023 Dateline award for Excellence in Local Journalism.


Anthony Tilghman

Anthony Tilghman, is an 3x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the...

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