US rapper Pras Michel to address 1MDB-linked charges on new 'Elon Musk' EP

Rap star Pras Michel told reporters that he is at work on a 9-track recording titled "Elon Musk", which will confront issues stemming from his case.
Rap star Pras Michel told reporters that he is at work on a 9-track recording titled "Elon Musk", which will confront issues stemming from his case.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Rap star Pras Michel declared he is "totally innocent" of the illegal United States campaign finance charges levelled against him last week - and he will have a distinctive way of broadcasting that.

Michel told reporters after a court appearance in Washington on Thursday (May 16) that he is at work on a nine-track recording titled "Elon Musk", to be released at the end of June. The tracks will confront issues stemming from his case, he said.

"I'm just working on my Elon Musk EP coming out next month," said Michel, who rose to fame in the 1990s as a member of The Fugees. "I'm totally focused on that."

Prosecutors accused Malaysian fugitive Jho Low of funnelling US$21.6 million (S$29.7 million) to Michel, who in turn gave about US$865,000 to some 20 people to donate to committees backing President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.

The straw donors hid the foreign source behind the contributions, a violation of US campaign finance rules, the government said. Mr Elon Musk, founder of aerospace company SpaceX, has had no involvement in the case.

Michel pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, making false statements and making false entries.

In court, defence lawyer Barry Pollack told US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that he will review 60,000 pages of records provided by the government and may seek a dismissal because prosecutors waited too long to bring the case. The statute of limitations is five years, he said.

 
 

Mr Pollack asked the judge to excuse Michel from his next court appearance in July.

"These are serious charges," Ms Kollar-Kotelly told Michel, urging him to be an active participant in his defence and to know what is happening at each step.

"I want you to make informed decisions."

Low, whose whereabouts are unknown, had been an adviser to former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak. He has also been charged in the US with conspiring to bribe foreign officials and launder money.

In Malaysia, he is accused of receiving more than US$1 billion from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) development fund in 2009 and 2011, and with money laundering.