pras the fugees
Photo Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP

The Fugees' Pras Begins Trial For Conspiracy & Other Charges

On Monday, Pras Michel of The Fugees begins trial in Washington, D.C.; charges include conspiracy, witness tampering, and more.

Pras Michel's delayed trial has begun in Washington, D.C. On Monday (March 27), The Fugees member faces charges including "conspiracy, witness tampering and failing to register as an agent of China," per NPR. The 50-year-old artist is at the center of an elaborate case involving multi-billion dollar global finance and political conspiracy ties to foreign nationals; Malaysian billionaire Jho Low and Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui. If convicted, the Haitian-American artist could be convicted up to 22 years in prison.

As The Fugees have repeatedly gone defunct since their best-selling 1996 sophomore album The Score, Michel has since become a businessman and politician in his parents' homeland of Haiti. Low, who allegedly associated with Michel while getting chummy with American presidents and celebrities, also obtained Malaysia's $4.4 billion from a sovereign wealth fund (called 1Malaysia Development Berhad or 1MDB) for himself. Federal prosecutors claim that Michel received a hefty amount of profit to influence American politics.

"The defendant, Prakazrel Michel, received over $100 million from Jho Low, a foreign fugitive responsible for one of the largest embezzlement schemes in history, to use backchannel influence to convince the then-President of the United States to drop a federal investigation into Low and to agree to the extrajudicial removal of a Chinese exile living in the United States," wrote prosecutors John Keller, Sean Mulryne and Nicole Lockhart.

Low, who is now believed to be living with his family in China, met Michel in New York City's Meatpacking District in 2006, per Rolling Stone. The duo stayed in touch, and when Michel was invited to a 2012 dinner for $40,000 per person hosted by former President Barack Obama, Low allegedly sent $21 million from the Malaysian funds to the rapper and his financial adviser. In turn, Michel, using his own name, donated $1.1 million to Obama's campaign, also distributing $865,000 to rougly 20 straw donors. Low also has associations with Leonardo DiCaprio, having financed the actor's 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street.

In 2019, Pras was given an indictment on four criminal counts for illegal contributions to the 2012 Obama reelection campaign. The rapper was also offered a plea deal, which he refused as it meant the feds would 74 million they seized from his bank accounts in 2018. Michel's trial is expected to extend through April.

In his recent RS profile, Michel shared his reflections on politics.

“I was one of those people who was just dabbling. I never thought I would be full time into politics,” he said. “I realized politics is not for me. The problem with politics is this: It’s that the people within politics, they’re dirtier than the people who are not in politics.”