Pras Michel the 46-year-old rapper and producer who together with Lauren Hill and Wyclef Jean formed the legendary hip-hop group The Fugees in 1990, pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, making a false statement, and two counts of falsifying records on Friday. According to CNN, Michel appeared before a federal judge in Washington D.C. on Friday to make his plea.
The charges stem from financial contributions Michel and his associates made to then-President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. Prosecutors allege that Michel made donations to the campaign without disclosing the money’s foreign origin. They allege that the true source of the funds is notorious Malaysian businessman, Jho Low.
In November, the Justice Department issued a civil forfeiture complaint seeking nearly $38 million. They alleged Low secretly funneled money through the US to pay individuals to lobby the US government seeking an end to its sprawling criminal investigation into 1Malaysian Development Berhad, a state-run development fund that has been under scrutiny since 2015.
According to prosecutors, Michel helped set up bank accounts to facilitate the movement of Low’s money without disclosing to the banks that Low was the source of the funds. Low was charged last year with conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying bribes to foreign officials and conspiring to embezzle billions of dollars from 1MDB. He is still awaiting his court date.
Last year, a former Justice Department employee pleaded guilty to helping Michel set up the bank accounts concealing that Low was the source of the money.
Both Michel and Low’s lawyers vehemently deny that their clients were involved in such a scheme.