From Baseless Claims To Co-Conspirator: How Did Pras Michél Get Tied Up In The 1MDB Scandal?

There are seven days until the trial against alleged co-conspirators, former Fugees member Prakazrel “Pras” Michél and Low Taek Jho, aka Jho Low. Low, who is in hiding and considered a fugitive, has been deemed the mastermind behind the 1MDB scandal. Published in 2018, Billion Dollar Whale is a book written by two former Wall Street Journal reporters that details Low’s life and alleged crimes. Low maintains his innocence and released public statements and documents through a now inactive website. So how did Pras get tied to the alleged mastermind of a multi-billion dollar international embezzlement scandal?

On March 31, 2015, The Center for Public Integrity released a story about LLCs that donate to Super PACs. The story’s main subject was Pras and how his company, SPM Holdings LLC, was used to donate $875,000 to Black Men Vote, an organization that supported Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. The story highlights the perceived lack of transparency of LLC-donated funds, but it does not provide a basis for the assumption that the funds donated by Pras through his LLC were on behalf of a foreign citizen or government. Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic FEC Commissioner, is quoted as saying, “If you don’t know who’s behind it, then you don’t know what you don’t know. Could be a foreign citizen. Could be a foreign government. Could be anybody.”

As a result of this story, the Campaign Legal Center, along with Democracy 21, filed complaints to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate “possible violations of campaign finance laws by rap artist Pras Michel, his company SPM Holdings LLC, the Super PAC Black Men Vote and its Treasurer, William Kirk Jr.” The complaint alleged that Pras et al. were in violation of 52 U.S.C. § 30122 (Contributions in name of another prohibited), 52 U.S. Code § 30104 (Reporting requirements), and 11 C.F.R. § 110.1(g) (Contributions by limited liability companies (“LLC”)).

However, in November 2015, The FEC First General Counsel’s Report concluded that “Michel did not create or provide funds to SPM for the specific purpose of making or reimbursing a contribution…the facts presented do not support a finding that Michel used SPM to make a contribution in the name of another.” The Office of General Counsel recommended that the allegations be dismissed. On February 25, 2016, the FEC Commission failed by a vote of 3-3 on two of the violations.

On April 1, 2016, Vice Chairman Steven T. Walther, Commissioner Ann M. Ravel, and Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub submitted a Statement of Reasons to pursue the matters against all parties, citing a case against W. Spann LLC as the basis for their recommendation. That same day, Chairman Matthew S. Petersen and Commissioners Caroline C. Hunter and Lee E. Goodman submitted their Statement of Reasons to dismiss the matters against all parties.

Worth mentioning are the following Statements between democratic and republican council members and their opposing views. 

This article is part one of a two-part series looking into the accusations against Pras Michél.

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