Grammy-winning rapper and producer Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, best known as part of the Fugees in the 90s, is on trial in Washington, D.C., facing federal conspiracy charges.
“This is a case about foreign money, foreign influence and concealment,” prosecutor Nicole Lockhart told the jury, according to NPR. “The defendant wanted money and was willing to break any laws necessary to get paid.”
In recent years Michel, 50, has reinvented himself as a businessman and activist. The allegations against him revolve around his work on behalf of Malaysian businessman Jho Low, who is accused of stealing billions from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB. Low was charged as Michel’s co-defendant but has not been arrested.
According to prosecutors, Low gave Michel a total payment of about $100 million, the Associated Press reports.
“The defendant needed money and was willing to do anything to get it, including being a paid agent of the Chinese government,” Lockhart said.
Prosecutors say Low and Michel planned to give 2 million dollars of Low’s funds to the Obama campaign in 2012 while concealing the funds’ foreign origin using a network of fictitious contributors and fabricated Federal Election Commission reports.
Political campaign donations from non-citizens are forbidden by federal law. Prosecutors also claim that Michel lobbied the Trump administration to end the Justice Department’s investigation into Low’s alleged embezzlement from 1MDB.
“Low had money to burn, and the defendant was willing to cash in at any turn,” Lockhart said.
Michel pleaded not guilty and has denied wrongdoing in pretrial hearings.
The trial is expected to last through April.