A Fugees rapper accused in multimillion-dollar political conspiracies spanning two presidencies was convicted Wednesday after a trial that included testimony ranging from actor Leonardo DiCaprio to former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Grammy-winning artist and former member of the Fugees faced multiple counts over the failed conspiracy to help Malaysian businessman Jho Low and the Chinese government gain access to US officials, including former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Michel was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the US, witness tampering and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government. He faces up to 20 years in prison. No sentencing date was set.
Michel sat stoically as each count came down on Wednesday and did not comment to reporters outside the courthouse.
His attorney, David Kenner, expressed disappointment about the verdicts, but said he was confident that his mistrial motions will work out in their favor.
“We are extremely disappointed in that result but are very, very confident in the ultimate outcome of this case,” Kenner told reporters, adding: “If we do move to a sentencing hearing I remain very confident we will certainly appeal this case. This is not over.”
Michel testified last week that Low paid Michel $20 million in 2012 in order to get a picture of himself with Obama and prosecutors alleged Michel funneled over $800,000 of that money to Obama’s campaign through a number of straw donors.
In his defense, Michel testified he never used the money at Low’s direction but instead saw it as his money which he could spend however he wanted.
“I could have bought 12 elephants with it,” he told the jury.
When Trump came to power in 2017 and investigations started to ramp up into Low and his alleged role in billions of dollars being embezzled from 1MBD, the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, Low went to Michel again, prosecutors alleged.
According to the prosecutors, Low directed over $100 million to Michel to help push the government, including Trump, to drop its investigation into Low. Prosecutors also say Michel advocated for the extradition of a Chinese dissident, Guo Wengui, on behalf of the Chinese government.
Michel, however, testified he only tried to help Low find an attorney in the US and only told authorities about Guo because he thought he was a criminal. The former Fugees member also said the $100 million was for a media business he was starting and the investment wasn’t from Low.
Low, who was charged along with Michel, is believed to be in China. Guo has since been arrested and charged by the Justice Department with defrauding investors in an unrelated case.