Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio has testified against Fugees member Pras Michel, who is accused of conspiracy and witness tampering.
via: Rolling Stone
DiCaprio, who is appearing as a witness for the prosecution, testified about the alleged exploits of Malaysian financier Jho Low. Low is accused of stealing $4.5 billion from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund, and Michel is among those accused of assisting him, allegedly receiving $8 million (and as much as $40 million) for doing so.
“I understood him to be a huge businessman with many connections,” DiCaprio told the court, according to the BBC. “He was a prodigy in the business world.”
DiCaprio said he met Low at a party in Las Vegas in 2010. The pair were linked in various ways over the next few years, with DiCaprio saying Low frequently invited him (and other celebrities) to “a multitude of lavish parties.” Low also contributed to DiCaprio’s various charitable efforts, with the actor testifying that he regularly participated in auctions “to bring in funds” for his foundation. A firm tied to Low even fronted a significant amount of money to fund Martin Scorsese’s 2013 movie starring DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street.
(DiCaprio, as previously reported, later turned over items he and his foundation received from Low to authorities, supposedly including some expensive paintings by Picasso and Jean-Michel Basquiat.)
Particularly pertinent to the accusations against Michel was DiCaprio’s recollection of a conversation he had with Low about U.S. politics, and Low’s interest in making a “significant contribution” to the Democratic Party before the 2012 presidential election. Low was reportedly considering an amount between $20 and $30 million, with DiCaprio telling the court, “I basically said ‘Wow, that’s a lot of money.’”
Prosecutors have accused Michel of trying to help Low funnel millions to Obama’s re-election campaign. It’s one of several illegal influence campaigns Michel is accused of taking part in with Low, along with trying to convince the Trump administration to stop investigating Low and the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund.
During opening statements last week, prosecutor Nicole Lockhart alleged Michel pocketed hundreds of millions of embezzled Malaysian dollars in exchange for running a foreign-influence campaign against the U.S. government.
“The defendant needed money and was willing to do anything to get it, including being an agent of the Chinese government,” Lockhart stated. “The defendant wanted money and was willing to break any laws necessary to get paid.”
In 2019, Michel pleaded not guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and falsifying records stemming from the rapper’s alleged role in a Malaysian wealth fund’s campaign finance violations. (Low is named as a co-defendant in the case, but he is currently a fugitive.)
Michel has continued to maintain his innocence, and recently spoke about the accusations against him, as well as their repercussions, with Rolling Stone. “What benefit would I get trying to break laws? It’s not worth it to me,” he said. “I’m like a pariah now. I’ve got friends who won’t talk to me because they think there’s a satellite in orbit listening to them.”