KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 ― US rapper Pras Michel turned adversity into opportunity yesterday by using charges against him related to the 1MDB scandal to promote an upcoming album.
Speaking to the Bloomberg news service, the performer asserted that he will address charges that he aided fugitive financier Low Taek Jho or Jho Low to make illegal contributions to the 2012 Obama presidential campaign.
US authorities charged Michel over the matter yesterday.
“I’m just working on my Elon Musk EP coming out next month.
“I’m totally focused on that,” Michel, a former member of popular 1990s hip hop music group “The Fugees”, was quoted as saying after his court appearance.
US prosecutors accused Jho Low of funneling US$21.6 million (RM90.11 million) to Michel, who in turn gave about US$865,000 to about 20 people to donate to committees backing Obama’s re-election campaign.
According to the case, the donors allegedly masked the fact that funds came from foreign sources; foreigners are not allowed to contribute to US politicians under the country’s emoluments laws.
Michel pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, making false statements and making false entries.
His defence lawyer Barry Pollack, informed US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that he will review 60,000 pages of records provided by the government and could seek a dismissal as prosecutors waited too long to bring up the case.
The statute of limitations is five years, the lawyer said.
Michel also applied to be excused from attending court proceedings, which the judge rejected.
“These are serious charges,” Kollar-Kotelly was quoted as saying, urging Michel to be an active participant in his defense and to know what’s happening at each step.
Low has also been charged in the US with conspiring to bribe foreign officials and launder money.
“Mr Low is innocent and he is presumed innocent under US law,” Low’s spokesman said in a statement to Bloomberg.
Low is presented as a central figure in the global 1MDB corruption scandal and has also been charged in absentia here along with his father and former associates with money laundering.
The scandal prompted the US to launch its largest-ever anti-kleptocracy action that has resulted in billions of ringgit in asset seizures, forfeitures, fines, and settlements.
The US Justice Department has so far repatriated US$57 million to Malaysia from the amount and has committed to send another US$139 million it expects to raise from selling Jho Low’s stake in Park Lane Hotel that is in Manhattan, New York.