Pras Michel, who is a former member of hip hop band The Fugees, reportedly pocketed $100 million in an effort to bring “secret, illegal foreign influence to bear” on two different presidential administrations, breaking conspiracy laws and tampering with witnesses along the way, prosecutor Nicole Lockhart told jurors Thursday morning.
Michel is on trial for multiple criminal charges in federal court in Washington, D.C. Authorities said the case is filled with political elements, fabrications and burner cell phones.
“This is a case about foreign money, foreign influence and concealment,” Lockhart told the jury. “The defendant wanted money and was willing to break any laws necessary to get paid.”
The Justice Department put Michel, 50, at the center of two separate streams of illegal conduct tied to the billionaire Jho Low, who’s been accused of stealing $4 billion from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. Low is a fugitive from justice believed to be in China, so Michel is standing trial alone.
Prosecutors cast Low as someone who was desperate to get close to American presidents and celebrities. And they said Michel was happy to assist, so long as he “got paid.”
Defense attorney David Kenner, who has represented prominent musical artists including Snoop Dog, told the jury he would reserve his opening statement until after the government rests its case. Kenner objected five times during the prosecution’s opening remarks to mixed results from U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.
The trial is expected to last between 4-6 weeks.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: LUKE MOCHERMAN
PHOTO CREDIT: NPR
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