Leonardo DiCaprio, a Malaysian entrepreneur, and a '90s rapper were all involved in a criminal trial which lasted for weeks. It concluded yesterday, April 26th, in a Washington DC Federal Court.
Paulina Prizkova, Estee Lauder model
"Pras Michael", a rapper of the Fugees musical group, was found guilty by a jury for 10 criminal charges, including conspiracy and witness tampering. He also violated campaign finance laws as well as lobbying on behalf of China without being registered. He could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The prosecution accused Michel of working together with Low Taek Jho, also known as "Jho Low". Jho Low, a Malaysian financier who is a fugitive from justice, was accused by prosecutors of working with Low Taek Jho (a.k.a. Michel's defence argued that poor legal advice and a desire to make money led him into a bad situation.
CNN reported that David Kenner, his lawyer, said outside the courthouse: "We're extremely disappointed with the result, but we are very,very confident about the final outcome of this case." He said: "This case is not over."
Michel testified in court that Low had paid him $20m in 2012 to get a photo with Obama who was at the time launching his reelection bid.
Michel said that he did not know that this was illegal. He used the money to pay for his friends' tickets to campaign fundraisers. The prosecutors also accused him using straw donors to funnel $800,000.00 of Low's funds into Obama's 2012 campaign.
Low was already facing criminal and civil charges for his involvement in one of the biggest corruption schemes around the globe, the "1MDB" scam. Businessman Low has been named as the "mastermind", behind the embezzlement billions of dollars of a Malaysian sovereign fund. He claims innocence. Low was sentenced in Kuwait to 10 years imprisonment in absentia.
The prosecution said that Michel, as part of a separate scheme involving Low, took $100 million and lobbied Trump's administration to stop its investigation into his involvement in 1MDB. Michel was also accused of lobbying the Chinese government to extradite exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui without registering himself as a foreign agent. Michel, in his defense has accused his lawyer George Higgenbotham of not having informed him that his activities were required to be disclosed.
Michel's trial featured two big names as witnesses. Leonardo DiCaprio talked about his relationship Low, the man who helped finance Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Leonardo DiCaprio said that he viewed Low as a successful businessman and remembered Low's desire to donate money to Obama's election campaign.
Jeff Sessions, the former Attorney General, testified about Guo's possible deportation. Sessions claimed he had not met Michel and that he was aware Beijing sought extradition. He did not deport Guo while he was in the Trump administration. Guo was indicted for a $1 billion fraud in a separate case.
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Correction: The article originally stated that Michel was trying to stop Guo's expulsion. Prosecutors accused Michel of advocating Guo's expulsion.