Fugees' Pras Michel is entangled in a campaign-finance case. His trial begins today

Pras Michel wearing a gray sweater and standing among city buildings
On trial in Washington, D.C., Pras Michel stands accused of participating in a conspiracy to surreptitiously divert funds to the Obama 2012 campaign. (Wong Maye-E / Associated Press)
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Former Fugees rapper Pras Michel is on trial in Washington, D.C., after he pleaded not guilty in 2019 to participating in a global campaign-finance conspiracy.

According to NPR, jury selection began Monday in the trial of the Grammy-winning musician — who stands accused of conspiring with fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low to surreptitiously divert funds to former President Obama's 2012 campaign.

Michel also faces a civil forfeiture complaint alleging his involvement in a scheme to block the Justice Department's investigation into embezzlement from Malaysian investment fund 1MDB. The founding member of 1990s hip-hop group the Fugees has denied any wrongdoing.

“Mr. Michel is extremely disappointed that so many years after the fact the government would bring charges related to 2012 campaign contributions,” said Barry Pollack, an attorney representing Michel, in 2019. “Mr. Michel is innocent of these charges and looks forward to having the case heard by a jury.”

Michel's case will indeed be heard by a jury in a trial that NPR said is expected to continue through much of April.

In May 2019, the Justice Department indicted Michel on four counts related to his alleged efforts to make and conceal foreign campaign donations in collusion with Low. Believed to be hiding somewhere in China, Low is not standing trial alongside Michel, according to NPR.

Prosecutors have alleged that Low transferred more than $21.6 million from foreign entities into Michel's accounts. The "Ghetto Supastar" hitmaker then allegedly distributed the funds among various conduits and straw donors so they could contribute to Obama's reelection campaign without revealing the source of the money.

The Justice Department has also accused of Michel of opening bank accounts under false pretenses while cooperating with Low.

Since his 2019 indictment, Michel has been active on the music scene — joining forces with fellow Fugees alumni Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill for an international reunion tour in late 2021. The Fugees are known for hits such as "Ready or Not," "Killing Me Softly With His Song," "Fu-Gee-La," "No Woman, No Cry" and "Zealots."

In a 2018 statement provided to the Washington Post, Michel proclaimed his innocence and insisted that his name was being unjustly "dragged through the mud."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.