April 5, 2023

USA: Former Fugees Member On Trial For Alleged Multimillion-Dollar Politics Conspiracy, Money Laundering, Campaign-Finance Violations, Failed To Register As Agent For China.

Reuters news published April 4, 2023: Why is Leonardo DiCaprio in court? Leonardo DiCaprio testified in the federal criminal trial of rapper Pras Michel, who is accused of participating in a scheme to lobby Washington on behalf of the Chinese government and Malaysian financier Jho Low.
Mar 30, 2023: Fugees rapper Pras Michel's conspiracy trial begins. Grammy winner Pras Michel is accused of conspiracy, witness tampering and failing to register as a foreign agent. NBC's Ken Dilanian has details.

The New York Post
written by Allie Griffin
Monday April 3, 2023

Leonardo DiCaprio took the stand Monday in the federal trial of a prominent ’90s rap artist accused of funneling money from a Malaysian financier who reportedly sought to donate tens of millions of dollars to President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

The Hollywood star, who has partied with the fugitive money man, Jho Low, said the financier once casually dropped in a conversation that he hoped to make a huge contribution to Obama’s campaign.

“It was a significant sum — something to the tune of $20-30 million,” DiCaprio testified. “I said, ‘Wow that’s a lot of money!’”

Low allegedly recruited Prakazrel “Pras” Michel – the founding member of the iconic 1990s hip-hop group The Fugees – to funnel the money to Obama’s reelection bid as foreigners cannot donate to US campaigns under federal election law.

Michel took tens of millions of dollars to lobby the government on behalf of Low and the Chinese government as a whole, prosecutors alleged.

Much of the money was reportedly stolen. Low is accused of embezzling a whopping $4.5 billion from Malaysia’s state investment fund known as 1MDB.

DiCaprio, 48, was called as a witness due to his years-long relationship with Low, who he believed to be “a huge businessman” with connections in Abu Dhabi and Malaysia, he said. Low helped fund his 2013 movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” for which the star won a Golden Globe for best actor.

Low, who also donated to the “Titanic” star’s charity, was known among Hollywood A-listers for throwing lavish parties and inviting people on expensive vacations via his private jet.

DiCaprio said he once joined a group who flew with Low on his jet to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Australia before flying to Las Vegas to celebrate the holiday for the second time in one day. He said Michel, who he first met backstage at a Fugees concert in the 90s, came on some of the trips.

Prosecutors have accused Michel of receiving $21.6 million in payments from foreign accounts linked to Low which the rapper then paid out to roughly 20 straw donors from June to November 2012. Those 20 or so donors were expected to make contributions to the Obama campaign in their names so the money wouldn’t be traced back to Low, according to court documents.

Following DiCaprio’s testimony, additional witnesses testified that Michel had wired them thousands and asked them to make shadow donations to the campaign.

The Fugees member was reportedly paid $70 million for his assistance to Low.

He faces 11 criminal counts of trying to influence the Obama and Trump administrations. Prosecutors have also accused the musician of attempting to interfere with the latter’s investigation into Low.
written by Lindsay Whitehurst and The Associated Press
Thursday March 30, 2023

A founding member of the 1990s hip-hop group the Fugees was enmeshed in political conspiracies involving millions of dollars in foreign money under two different U.S. presidents, federal prosecutors said as his trial got underway with opening statements Thursday.

Prakazrel “Pras” Michel is accused of funneling money from a fugitive Malaysian financer through straw donors to Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. Five years later, prosecutors say he tried squelch an investigation into the financer and persuade then-President Donald Trump’s administration to return to China a “vocal critic of the government.”

“This is a case about foreign money, foreign influence and concealment,” said prosecutor Nicole Rae Lockhart. Michel pocketed over $100 million in the saga involving “political intrigue, backroom dealing, … burner phones and lies,” she said.

Michel’s lawyers have previously said he is innocent and “extremely disappointed” in the charges, but the defense decided to wait to give its opening statement in the trial that’s expected to last weeks.

The Department of Justice says Michel conspired with Low Taek Jho, usually known as Jho Low. The fugitive financer is accused of masterminding a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions from the Malaysian state investment fund known as 1MDB.

Looted money paid for jewelry and luxury art and helped finance Hollywood films like “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Low was once known for his business and social ties to American celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Leonardo DiCaprio, a possible witness in the case. During the 2012 presidential campaign, prosecutors allege Low directed more than $20 million to Michel, who concealed its origin by giving the money to straw donors to give to the Obama campaign. He later tried to lean on the donors to keep them from talking to investigators, Lockhart said.

In 2017, prosecutors say, the Grammy-winning rapper worked with a Republican “fixer” to try and shut down a U.S. investigation into Low and embezzlement from the Malaysian fund. He’s also accused of pushing the Trump administration to send a Chinese person who had fled to the U.S. back to China.

“It almost worked,” Lockhart said. “The defendant wanted money and was willing to break any laws necessary to get paid.”

The Justice Department last year announced charges against Low and two former Goldman Sachs bankers in the money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered money from the fund, which was created to spur economic development projects in Malaysia. Low is a fugitive but has maintained his innocence.

One of the bankers, Roger Ng, was sentenced to 10 years in prison this month for his role in the scheme.
LISTEN TO THIS Bloomberg Television published February 14, 2022: Ex-Goldman Banker Roger Ng on Trial Over 1MDB Scandal. The credibility of star witness Tim Leissner is a major focus as the 1MDB trial of former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng starts in New York. Ng is accused of conspiring to violate U.S. laws to steal billions from Malaysia's 1MDB fund. Bloomberg's Patricia Hurtado reports on "Bloomberg Daybreak: Asia."
Arirang News published November 1, 2018: U.S. charges Jho Low, ex- Goldman bankers over 1MDB scandal. The U.S. Justice Department has charged two former Goldman Sachs bankers and Malaysian financier Jho Low with money laundering and bribery. The three are accused of laundering billions of dollars embezzled from a Malaysian state fund called 1MDB and using it for bribes and kickbacks to foreign officials. Prosecutors say the money was used to buy houses, a private jet and even to help finance the film 'Wolf of Wall Street.' One of the former Goldman bankers, Roger Ng, was arrested in Malaysia on Thursday and he or his lawyers are yet to issue a statement. The other, Tim Leissner, has pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to forfeit just under 44 million dollars. Jho Low remains at large and his legal team issued a statement maintaining his innocence.
The Star published April 9, 2022: Roger Ng found guilty. Roger Ng, the only Goldman Sachs banker to go to trial over the global 1MDB scandal, was found guilty for his role in the epic looting of the Malaysian fund.

BBC News, UK  
written by Staff
November 1, 2018

Two former Goldman Sachs bankers and Malaysian financier Jho Low have been hit with US criminal charges in connection with one of the world's biggest financial scandals.

The Department of Justice alleges the men participated in a scheme that stole billions of dollars from Malaysia's development fund, 1MDB.

One former Goldman banker pleaded guilty, the department said.

The other banker has been arrested, while Mr Low remains at large.

Mr Low, who prosecutors say had ties to government officials and acted as an informal adviser to the 1MDB fund, maintains his innocence, according to a statement issued by his legal team.

He has previously denied charges filed in Malaysia, adding that it would be "impossible" for him to receive a fair trial there.

"Mr. Low simply asks that the public keep an open mind regarding this case until all of the evidence comes to light, which he believes will vindicate him," the statement said.

Goldman, which worked to raise money for the 1MDB fund, said on Thursday that it "continues to co-operate with all authorities investigating this matter".

How did we get here?

These are the first US criminal charges to surface in the 1MDB scandal. Authorities say billions of dollars were embezzled from the state fund to buy art, property, a private jet - and even to help finance the Wolf of Wall Street film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The scandal has prompted investigations around the world and played a role in the election defeat earlier this year of Malaysia's former prime minister, Najib Razak, who is accused of pocketing $700m (£517m) from the fund he set up.

He has since been charged with corruption, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust in Malaysia. His wife, Rosmah Mansor, has been charged with money laundering. Both deny any wrongdoing.

US authorities have previously filed civil suits aimed at recovering luxury goods, cash and other items allegedly purchased with money from the fund.

What are the new charges?

In this case, prosecutors say former Goldman bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng worked with Mr Low to bribe government officials to win 1MDB business for Goldman Sachs.

Goldman had previously rejected Mr Low as a client, after compliance officials raised concerns about the source of his money.

But in this case, the bankers, along with others at Goldman, worked to conceal Mr Low's involvement, prosecutors say.

Ultimately, the bankers worked on three bond offerings in 2012 and 2013 that raised about $6.5bn for the fund and earned Goldman $600m, the indictment says.

The money was supposed to support development projects, but prosecutors say the three men "conspired to launder" more than $2.7bn through the US financial system.

They allegedly used this money to pay bribes and "for the personal benefit of themselves and their relatives".

How have the men responded?

Mr Low, who was charged earlier in Malaysia, has repeatedly declared his innocence. He has called the Malaysian charges political.

Mr Leissner, who served as Goldman's South East Asia chairman and a participating managing director, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and violate US anti-bribery laws.

Mr Leissner, who left Goldman in February 2016, has been ordered to forfeit $43.7m.

Mr Ng was a managing director at Goldman until his departure in May 2014. He was arrested in Malaysia on Thursday. The BBC has not yet been able to contact a lawyer representing him.

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