There is speculation in a new report that the Fugees cancelled their 25th anniversary tour celebrating second album ‘The Score’ not due to COVID-19 concerns, as originally stated, but member Pras Michel’s ongoing legal issues.
A story published on August 29 by Puck‘s Eriq Gardner details Michel’s indictment for his alleged role in the claimed criminal conspiracy surrounding Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad, and the significant jail time Michel may face for his connections with fugitive businessman Jho Low.
Low is currently wanted by authorities for allegedly masterminding the theft of some $4.5billion US from 1MDB into his own personal accounts. Low has long denied any wrongdoing. It’s alleged in the indictment that Michel facilitated the transfer of approximately $21.6million into the US for Low “for the purpose of funneling significant sums of money into the United States presidential election”.
Acting on Low’s behalf, Michel is accused of attempting to influence two US presidential administrations – by funnelling $865,000 through “straw donors” into Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign through, and lobbying for Trump to send Chinese dissident Guo Wengui back to China.
According to the indictment, Michel was supposedly paid at least $8million for cooperating with Low, and was promised an additional $75million if he could stop a Department of Justice investigation into 1MDB. In July of last year, Michel was charged by a federal grand jury for lobbying the Trump administration to cease the investigation.
Puck reports that Michel reportedly refused to take a deal in which he would plead guilty to an obstruction of justice charge and the lesser violation of failing to register as a foreign agent. It would have seen him serve 16 months in prison, and the government would have returned a few million of the roughly $40million seized from Michel’s accounts which it believes rightly belongs to Malaysia.
As a result, the Department of Justice reportedly told Michel he would not be allowed to leave the country. Nevertheless, the Fugees – Michel, Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean announced an international reunion tour in September 2021 for that year that would see them celebrate 25 years since the release of their second album, 1996’s ‘The Score’.
It was reported in October that the reunion tour dates were in jeopardy due to Michel’s legal issues, with the Department of Justice confirming that Michel’s passport was handed over as a result of the case.
In late October, the band postponed the tour to 2022 to ensure “the best chance that all cities on the tour will be fully open”, as some cities were facing restrictions due to the pandemic.
In January of this year, the tour was cancelled altogether, with the group saying at the time that the “continued Covid pandemic has made touring conditions difficult, and we want to make sure we keep our fans and ourselves healthy and safe”.
Michel is expected to appear in court on November 4 in DC. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Through his attorney, David Kenner – known for representing Snoop Dogg in the rapper’s 1996 murder trial, in which he was acquitted – Michel has moved for the charges to be dismissed.
In a recent dismissal motion, Kenner wrote that the case “[follows] the trajectory of so many before it, where a case with multiple defendants features a lone black artist”. In this instance, Kenner argued, Michel – “who speaks for the poor and marginalized and who gives back to such communities in enormous ways” – is the “last man standing”.
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