US rapper of 1990s hip hop fame accused of helping Jho Low

Fugees founding member, musician Prakazrel ‘Pras’ Michel.

PETALING JAYA: US authorities today accused a rapper of 1990s hip hop group Fugees, together with a former Department of Justice (DOJ) official, of allegedly conspiring to transfer tens of millions of dollars into the United States, in a bid to help businessman Low Taek Jho influence investigations and anti-crime efforts into the 1MDB scandal, ABC News reported.

The revelation was made in court documents filed by prosecutors in the federal district court in Washington DC on Friday.

The conspiracy involving the two men — musician Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, and the then DOJ official George Higginbotham — also allegedly involved a third person, a candidate running for federal office.

While Higginbotham has been charged with one count of “conspiracy to make false statements” to a bank, to which he has pleaded guilty, Michel has yet to be charged.

The portal reported a DOJ spokeswoman as saying that “It’s an ongoing investigation”, when asked why the Fugees founding member had not been publicly charged. It also reported that Michel has yet to respond to requests for comments.

1MDB is the subject of corruption and money-laundering probes in Malaysia and countries such as the United States and Singapore.

An estimated US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates between 2009 and 2014, the DoJ has alleged.

Earlier this month, US prosecutors unveiled criminal charges against two former Goldman Sachs bankers tied to the massive theft.

Court papers filed on Friday revealed that Low had found a long-time political fundraiser to lobby the US government on his behalf, for the DoJ to pull away from investigations into the scandal.

Prosecutors and court documents also showed Michel allegedly recruiting Higginbotham to help hide the lobbying campaign’s connections to Low.

Court documents further revealed that when the US government did not turn away from the 1MDB scandal, Low, with the help of Michel and Higginbotham, then turned to a politically-connected fundraiser to push the government to deport a foreign national who had been critical of his home government.

The portal reported that the fundraiser then approached the unidentified candidate running for federal office.

The portal also reported prosecutors as saying that Higginbotham, in looking to help Michel get paid by the fugitive businessman for his services, helped channel tens of millions of dollars through shell companies. Even fake documents were generated to make certain fraudulent transactions appear legitimate.

Michel had also allegedly persuaded Higginbotham to send an email to a major bank, insisting that certain funds were being transferred from a legitimate company overseas for the purpose of an entertainment venture.

However, Higginbotham admitted in court that the funds were actually meant to support Low’s lobbying efforts.