Former Fugees rapper Pras Michel pleaded not guilty to four charges that were unsealed at his first court appearance before a federal judge in Washington on Friday.
He is being charged with conspiracy, making a false statement and two counts of falsifying records.
Michel was released and he is allowed to live at his homes in Florida and California as he awaits trial. His next court appearance will be May 16.
Barry Pollack, an attorney for Michel, said the charges concern 2012 campaign contributions and that Michel is innocent of the charges.
“Mr. Michel is extremely disappointed that so many years after the fact the government would bring charges related to 2012 campaign contributions. Mr. Michel is innocent of these charges and looks forward to having the case heard by a jury,” Pollack said in a statement.
Prosecutors alleged in the indictment that Michel had made campaign donations to pro-Obama groups without disclosing their foreign origin, according to Pollack, who says the allegation is that the money was from Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman.
In November, the Justice Department named Michel in a civil forfeiture complaint seeking nearly $38 million that it alleges Low secretly funneled through the US to pay individuals to lobby the US government seeking an end to its sprawling criminal investigation into 1Malaysian Development Berhad, a state development fund.
Authorities alleged Michel helped set up bank accounts in 2017 to facilitate the movement of Low’s money without disclosing to the banks that Low was the source of the funds. Low was charged last year with conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying bribes to foreign officials and conspiring to embezzle billions of dollars from 1MDB. He has not yet appeared in court for the case.
George Higgenbotham, a Justice Department employee, pleaded guilty last year to helping Michel set up the bank accounts concealing that Low was source of the money.
A spokesperson for Mr. Low, through his attorneys, issued the following statement:
“Mr. Low is innocent – and he is presumed innocent under US law. The allegations against Mr. Low have no basis in fact: Mr. Low has never made any campaign contributions directly or indirectly in the US and he unequivocally denies any involvement in or knowledge of the alleged activities.”