Ex-Fugees rapper charged in campaign finance case

FILE - In this April 12, 1997, file photo, Prakazrel "Pras" Michel, part of the group the Fugees, sings on stage during a concert in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. A lawyer for one of the founding members of the 1990s hip hop group the Fugees says his client is facing charges related to 2012 campaign contributions. Defense lawyer Barry Pollack said Friday, May 10, 2019, that Michel is innocent and looks forward to having the case heard by a jury.(AP Photo/Daniel Morel, File)

WASHINGTON — One of the founding members of the 1990s hip-hop group the Fugees has been charged in a campaign finance conspiracy that took place during the 2012 U.S. presidential election, the Justice Department said Friday.

A four-count indictment accuses Prakazrel "Pras" Michel of conspiring with fugitive Malaysian financer Jho Low to make and conceal foreign campaign contributions. He is alleged to have used straw donors to give campaign contributions to a presidential candidate, who is identified in the indictment only as Candidate A.

"Mr. Michel is extremely disappointed that so many years after the fact the government would bring charges related to 2012 campaign contributions," said defense lawyer Barry Pollack. "Mr. Michel is innocent of these charges and looks forward to having the case heard by a jury."

Michel faces a separate civil forfeiture complaint accusing him in a scheme to try to get the department to drop an investigation into embezzlement from a Malaysian investment fund. Michel has denied wrongdoing in that case.

The embezzlement from the fund, known as 1MDB, became a political scandal in Malaysia. Looted money paid for jewelry and luxury art and helped finance "The Wolf of Wall Street" and other Hollywood productions films. The Justice Department last year announced charges against Jho Low and two former Goldman Sachs bankers in a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered money from the fund, created to spur economic development projects in that country.

One of those bankers, Roger Ng, was extradited from Malaysia several years ago to face charges in New York.

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