Former Fugees rapper Pras Michel is on trial in Washington, DC, after he pleaded not guilty in 2019 to participating in a global campaign finance conspiracy.
According nprJury selection began Monday in the trial of the Grammy-winning musician accused of conspiring with Malaysian financial fugitive Jho Low to surreptitiously divert funds to former President Obama’s 2012 campaign.
Michel is also facing a civil forfeiture complaint alleging his involvement in a scheme to block the Justice Department’s investigation into the embezzlement of Malaysian 1MDB investment funds. The founding member of the 1990s hip-hop group The Fugees has denied any wrongdoing.
“Mr. Michel is extremely disappointed that so many years after the fact, the government brought charges related to the 2012 campaign contributions,” Barry Pollack, an attorney representing Michel, said in 2019. “Mr. Michel is innocent of these charges and expects a jury to hear the case.”
In fact, Michel’s case will be heard by a jury in a trial that NPR said is expected to continue through much of April.
In May 2019, the Justice Department indicted Michel on four counts related to his alleged attempts to make and conceal foreign campaign donations in collusion with Low. Low, who is believed to be hiding somewhere in China, is not on trial along with Michel, according to NPR.
Prosecutors have alleged that Low transferred more than $21.6 million from foreign entities to Michel’s accounts. The “Ghetto Supastar” hitmaker allegedly distributed the funds among various conduits and fictitious donors so they could contribute to Obama’s re-election campaign without disclosing the source of the money.
The Justice Department also charged Michel with opening bank accounts under false pretenses while cooperating with Low.
Since his 2019 indictment, Michel has been active on the music scene, joining forces with fellow Fugees alumni Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill for an international reunion tour in late 2021. The Fugees are known for hits like ” Ready or Not”, “Killing Me Softly With His Song”, “Fu-Gee-La”, “No Woman, No Cry” and “Zealots”.
In a 2018 statement provided to the Washington Post, Michel proclaimed his innocence and insisted that his name was being unfairly “dragged through the mud.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.