A new federal indictment in the United States has charged a Malaysian financier and an American rapper with lobbying the former Trump administration to stop investigating the 1MDB corruption scandal, and to deport a Chinese dissident, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.
The “unregistered, back-channel” lobbying campaigns were directed by fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and China’s vice minister of public security, the DOJ said.
“Low Taek Jho, 39, also known as Jho Low, and Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, 48, are alleged to have conspired … to have the 1MDB embezzlement investigation and forfeiture proceedings involving Low and others dropped, and to have a Chinese dissident sent back to China,” the statement said.
The charges against the two were brought through a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on Thursday, the department said.
The two are alleged to have conspired with Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy and Hawaiian businesswoman Nickie Lum Davis to engage in undisclosed lobbying campaigns “at the direction of Low and the Vice Minister of Public Security for the People’s Republic of China, respectively.”
The DOJ statement did not name the Chinese vice minister of Public Security.
Nor did it name the Chinese dissident that Low and Michel were lobbying the Trump administration and U.S. justice officials to send back to China.
However, news reports last year, including in The New York Times, said the Chinese dissident is a billionaire asylum seeker named Guo Wengui, who Beijing has charged with corruption.
Low and Michel lobbied both to drop the 1MDB embezzlement investigation and forfeiture proceedings and to have the Chinese critic of the Chinese Communist Party deported home.
Low faces criminal charges in Malaysia and the U.S. for his role in allegedly embezzling billions of dollars from 1MDB, a Malaysian state investment fund, through his relationship with former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was convicted last July and sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption-related charges.
Rapper Michel, who was a member of the hit hip-hop group Fugees, will fight the charges, his lawyer Benjamin Brafman said, in a statement, according to Bloomberg News. According to Bloomberg, the back-channel efforts by Low and Michel failed.
Low and Michel were charged in May 2019 for conspiracy to funnel the former’s foreign money into U.S. presidential campaign contributions in the run-up to the 2012 election.
The two attempted to “buy access to, and potential influence with, a candidate, the candidate’s campaign, and the candidate’s administration,” a copy of the 2019 indictment said, without specifying which candidate’s campaign they targeted.
“Low directed the transfer of approximately $21,600,000 from foreign entities and accounts to Michel for the purpose of funneling significant sums of money into the United States presidential election as purportedly legitimate contributions, all while concealing the true source of the money,” the DOJ statement in 2019 said, citing the indictment.
“To facilitate the excessive contributions and conceal their true source, Michel paid approximately $865,000 of the money received from Low to about 20 straw donors, or conduits, so that the straw donors could make donations in their names to a presidential joint fundraising committee.”
Separately, Republican fundraiser Broidy, who is alleged to have worked under Low’s direction, was pardoned by Trump in January after he pleaded guilty last October of conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws.
Businesswoman Lum Davis, who is alleged to have worked under the direction of a Chinese vice minister of Public Security, pleaded guilty last August for violating foreign lobbying laws.