Rapper Pras gave his first interview about the legal drama that led to him being investigated for money laundering and accused of being a Chinese government agent.
Rolling Stone released a feature about the ordeal where Michael Ames breaks down how the Fugees rapper became the face of a decade-long case involving two foreign nationals attempting to influence the U.S. government.
The first man, who Pras refers to as Jho Low, is a Malaysian national who robbed his country’s sovereign wealth fund (known as 1MDB) of $4.5 billion dollars.
The man, whose real name is Low Taek Jho, used the stolen money to buy his way into American social and celebrity circles with stunts like putting up $100 million to finance Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street because he was trying to become friends with Leonardo DiCaprio.
For the first few years of their friendship, Pras and Jho Low’s relationship consisted of high-profile celebrity parties. One event in 2012 saw the two transform a private 500-seater flight into a nightclub so that they could shuttle their A-List friends to Sydney, Australia to celebrate New Year’s Eve; then return to the United States to ring in 2013 a second time.
“When we exited Australia, the stamp was 2013,” Pras said, explaining the adventure. “When I came back into the States, the stamp was 2012.”
In the midst of it all, however, Jho set his sights on bribing the U.S. government like he had done with the Malaysian government and others; and saw Pras’ relationship with Barack Obama as a way in.
The first crime the rapper is accused of committing consists of him donating over $1.1 million of Jho Low’s money into Obama’s 2012 campaign, but making it seem as though the amount came from multiple donations from multiple people.
In 2019, Pras was indicted on four criminal counts for his illegal contributions. However, prosecutors offered him a plea deal that would not only see the charges go away, but would also lead to the government returning some of the $74 million that had been seized from his four bank accounts.
Maintaining that he had done nothing wrong, Pras turned down the deal. And now his attorneys are saying that he has been turned into a scapegoat for Low Taek Jho, who has since fled the country and cannot be prosecuted.
After turning down the plea deal, Pras was hit with “a superseding indictment that added eight more criminal charges, including bank fraud, concealment of material facts, witness tampering, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and working as an unregistered agent of the People’s Republic of China.”
The last two charges are from Jho using Pras to try to get in good with someone within the Trump administration who could help make the investigation into his embezzlement case go away. In the process, Pras was introduced to China’s Vice Minister of Public Security Sun Lijun, who was trying to get the U.S. government to turn over a wealthy fugitive billionaire back over to Chinese authorities.
Pras took one meeting with Lijun; but the conversations they had technically made it seem as though the rapper was acting against the United States on behalf of China.
“I was one of those people who was just dabbling. I never thought I would be full time into politics,” Pras told Rolling Stone of his ordeal. “I realized politics is not for me. The problem with politics is this: It’s that the people within politics, they’re dirtier than the people who are not in politics.
“What benefit would I get trying to break laws? It’s not worth it to me,” he added after explaining that, throughout this whole ordeal he checked in with his legal council to make sure he wouldn’t be getting himself into trouble. “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.”
Addressing the rumors that the Fugees 2022 reunion tour was cancelled because of his legal troubles, Pras hinted that drama within the crew had much more to do with the cancellation than anything going on in his own life.
“It got a bit complicated. That’s life. But I think now we cordial,” he explained. “’Clef and I speak, here and there. He texts me, he calls me. Lauryn and I, we cool. You know, it’s all right. But obviously, dealing with what I’m dealing with, I’ve just been kind of, like, focusing on that, you know what I mean?”
All of the other people who were originally included in the federal indictment — including two Goldman Sachs bankers who confessed to helping Jho move his money around; and Frank White, Jr., the former chairman of President Obama’s reelection campaign — have agreed to testify against Pras in a trial set to start on March 27.