Jury selection in the federal trial of Grammy award-winning musician Pras Michel started on Monday in Washington D.C., making for a crucial moment in a case that includes allegations of international and political intrigue, NPR reports.
The Fugees‘ rapper faces a number of charges, including conspiracy, failing to register as an agent of China, and witness tampering.
Rapper Faces Up To 22-Years In Prison If Convicted After Turning Down Plea Deal Earlier This Month
He faces up to 22-years in prison if convicted after turning down a plea deal earlier this month, The Shade Room previously reported.
The 50-year-old, who earned worldwide recognition and fame in 1996 when his band Fugees released The Score, only found himself in legal trouble after attempting to redefine himself as a political operative in the U.S. and his native Haiti.
The case against Pras centers around his relationship with Malaysian billionaire Jho Low, who authorities accused of bilking his country’s sovereign wealth fund out of billions of dollars to line his own pockets.
NEW COVER: In 2011, Grammy-winner Pras Michél of Fugees fame met Jho Low of 1MDB infamy. Ten years later, Michél’s relationship with Low got him in trouble with the FBI.
— Businessweek (@BW) March 2, 2023
Low used those funds and cache to curry favor with American presidents and celebrities like Pras and Leonardo DiCaprio. Low is currently a fugitive from justice and is believed to be in China, meaning Pras will be standing trial by himself.
Pras Reportedly Received Over $100 Million From Wanted Malaysian Billionaire
Federal prosecutors accuse Pras of receiving over $100 million from Low.
“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.
Pras reportedly was caught in between two different sets of crimes, the first of which was an illegal plan to enlist people to attend a fundraising dinner for Barack Obama back during his 2012 presidential campaign, where the rapper allegedly reimbursed $40,000 apiece using foreign financial sources for the ticket costs, NPR reports
He’s also accused of threatening some of the donors if they tipped off authorities to the illegal scheme.
The man in the middle is Jho Low, the notorious Malaysian embezzler. This picture was included in a new court filing aimed at having Barack Obama testify at a criminal trial next month. Details… https://t.co/sEnNJ7JRfU pic.twitter.com/ygmgaJXCPG
— Eriq Gardner (@eriqgardner) February 28, 2023
RELATED: The Fugees’ Pras Discusses Facing 22 Years In Prison For Chinese Spy Accusations After Turning Down Plea Deal
Pras Reportedly Partook In Secret Lobbying Campaign To Influence Officials In Jho Low’s Fraud Scheme
The second scheme Pras is accused of partaking in involves secret lobbying efforts to assist Low in influencing American justice system and White House officials after authorities learned of his fraud scheme, as well as to help the Chinese government “secure the return” of a dissident who had been living in the U.S.and developing a close relationship with former Trump advisor Steve Bannon.
The dissident in question, Miles Gun, was arrested by the FBI earlier this month on charges of orchestrating a separate financial fraud scheme, however U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has mostly excluded any evidence about that case from the Michel trial.
As of Monday, 90 potential jurors were headed to court for what will likely be an extensive void dire process, NPR reports.
Meanwhile, last week prosecutor John Keller claimed the Justice Department could call as many as 30 witnesses.
A Businessman named Jho Low scammed Malaysia of $4.5 billion. He bought a $250 million yacht and a $35 million plane.
He invested $100 million in the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street.
Leonardo DiCaprio thanked him when he won an Oscar.
He hasn't been arrested yet. pic.twitter.com/sfTJNsqnud
— Isima (@IsimaOdeh) July 19, 2022
Potential Witnesses Include Leo DiCaprio, Rudy Giuliani, Former Trump Aide Steve Bannon
Defense attorney Kenner, who previously represented Snoop Dogg in in 1996 trial for murder and who’s currently representing Tory Lanez in his appeal of his conviction regarding the Megan Thee Stallion shooting, estimated around the same amount.
The witnesses could include everyone from actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in The Wolf of Wall Street, a 2013 film that Low had invested upwards of $100 million in film funding.
Other potential witnesses include the aforementioned former political aide Steve Bannon, casino mogul Steve Wynn, and former President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, according to the outlet.
Pras’ trial is expected to extend through most of April.