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Pras charged over alleged involvement in foreign-funded lobbying campaign in relation to Malaysian embezzlement scandal

By | Published on Tuesday 15 June 2021

US Department Of Justice

Pras – best known as a member of The Fugees – could face a lengthy prison sentence if found guilty of involvement in an undisclosed foreign-funded lobbying campaign in the US that sought to influence the presidency of Donald Trump in relation to an ongoing investigation into alleged dodgy dealings within a state-owned investment fund in Malaysia.

The musician was last week formally charged in relation to allegations he was indeed involved in such a scheme.

This all relates to what is known as the 1MDB scandal in Malaysia. Back in 2015, Malaysia’s then President Najib Razak was accused of involvement in a scam to siphon off $3.5 billion from a state-owned investment fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad – or 1MDB.

It was alleged that the scam was orchestrated by a Malaysian businessman called Taek Jho Low – generally known as Jho Low – who, as it happens, also headed up an investment fund involved in the 2012 Sony-led acquisition of EMI Music Publishing.

Despite denying any wrong-doing, Low faces criminal charges in both Malaysia and the US in relation to the alleged scam. Investigations are ongoing in America, which is seemingly why he was keen for the Trump government to be lobbied on the issue. Low, backed by the Chinese government, allegedly sought to persuade Trump and the US Department Of Justice to “drop the investigation of Jho Low and others in connection with the international strategic and development company known as 1MDB”.

Pras, real name Prakazrel Michel, seemingly helped Low to pursue this lobbying campaign. According to a statement from the Department Of Justice, a grand jury in Washington last week charged Pras and Low over allegations they together orchestrated “an unregistered, back-channel campaign beginning in or about 2017 to influence the then-administration of the President of the United States and the Department Of Justice”.

The two men are “alleged to have conspired with … others to engage in undisclosed lobbying campaigns at the direction of Low and the Vice Minister Of Public Security for the People’s Republic Of China, respectively, both to have the 1MDB embezzlement investigation and forfeiture proceedings involving Low and others dropped and to have a Chinese dissident sent back to China”.

“Michel and Low are also charged with conspiring to commit money laundering related to the foreign influence campaigns”, the DoJ’s statement adds. “Michel is also charged with witness tampering and conspiracy to make false statements to banks”.

If found guilty of the crimes they have been charged over, Low could face maximum penalties of five to ten years in prison per count, while Michel could face five to 20 years per count.

It’s not the first time Michel has faced criminal charges in relation to allegations he support Low in efforts to influence US politicians. In 2019 the two men were charged over allegations Michel helped Low to funnel foreign monies into political donations, specifically made to Barack Obama’s presidential election campaign in 2012, seemingly with the aim of influencing the then US presidency.

So that’s all full of intrigue, isn’t it? What do reckon, will this story make a good movie or a middling Netflix mini-series?