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Grammy Award-winning Hip-Hop Artist Charged With Acting as Foreign Agent for Beijing

Prakash Gogoi
Prakash covers news and politics for Vision Times.
Published: June 23, 2021
Former hip-hop artist Pras and co-conspirator Jho Low reportedly collaborated with Beijing to coerce U.S. authorities to expel a Chinese dissident from America.
Former hip-hop artist Pras and co-conspirator Jho Low reportedly collaborated with Beijing to coerce U.S. authorities to expel a Chinese dissident from America. (Image: DWilliam via Pixabay)

Grammy Award-winning Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, a 48-year-old former hip-hop artist, and 39-year-old Malaysian Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, have been charged with attempting to expel a Chinese dissident in the U.S. who was sought after by the Chinese regime, a June 11 Department of Justice (DoJ) press release states.

The pair have also been charged with attempting to influence the Trump administration’s investigation into the 1MDB Malaysian financial scandal. Michel was also a founding member of the Fugees hip hop group, along with Wyclef Jean and Lauren Hill, which was active between the years 1992 and 2006.

Chasing dissidents

According to court documents seen by The Epoch Times, Michel, Jho Low, an unnamed Vice Minister of Public Security for the People’s Republic of China, and a few other representatives of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) met with FBI agents in 2017. During the meeting, the CCP members inquired about the dissident’s security arrangements and whereabouts, and asked for him to be sent back to China.

The name of the dissident was not mentioned in the court documents. He was characterized as living in the U.S. on a temporary visa and having a “high profile.” The person was said to have an Interpol Red Notice in his name. A day after the meeting, Michel obtained images of the dissident’s identity card, passport, and other documents, which showed the crimes the dissident had allegedly committed. It is unknown whether Michel gave the evidence to the FBI.

A Red Notice is “not an international arrest warrant,” the Interpol website states. Instead, it is a “request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.”

According to CNBC, the Chinese dissident is the controversial billionaire Guo Wengui. Guo fled to the United States in 2014 after being accused of various crimes by the Chinese regime, including money laundering, bribing, rape, fraud, kidnapping, and so on. Guo claimed to be a whistleblower and levied several corruption allegations against senior Chinese officials.

In 2019, a study by the International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) found that there was a Chinese government-backed misinformation campaign against Guo on Twitter involving hundreds of fake accounts.

Guo himself is a subject of debate in the overseas Chinese dissident community, given his complicated business and political ties, threatening accusations against anti-CCP activists, and sometimes bizarre statements.

1MDB investigation

Michel and Low are also facing charges associated with a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) money laundering scandal. 1MDB is a strategic development company owned by the Malaysian Minister of Finance. According to Malaysian authorities, almost 4.5 billion dollars was stolen from 1MDB between 2009 and 2014.

Jho Low is accused of being the mastermind behind the fraud. Low and his associates are said to have used the swindled money to buy jets, yachts, and real estate. They also financed Martin Scorsese’s 2013 movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” In 2018, the U.S. DoJ launched an investigation into the allegations, and in October 2019, a settlement deal was reached with Low to recover one billion dollars that had been misappropriated.

According to the June 11 DOJ press release, Michel and Low ran an “unregistered, back-channel campaign” starting in 2017 to influence the Justice Department and the Trump administration to drop the 1MDB investigation of Jho Low and others connected to the case. 

The unnamed Vice Minister of Public Security for the People’s Republic of China was also involved in directing Michel and Low to push the influence campaign forward. Low is currently believed to be in China.

Both Michel and Low have been charged with conspiring to commit money laundering related to the foreign influence campaigns. Michel also has additional charges against him for witness tampering and conspiracy to make false statements to banks.

“If convicted, Low faces a maximum penalty of five to 10 years in prison, per count. If convicted, Michel faces a range of maximum penalties from five to 20 years in prison, per count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors,” the June 11 DOJ press release stated.

Back in 2019, Low and Michel were also charged with funneling millions of dollars into the 2012 U.S. presidential elections to support Barack Obama’s campaign.