Rapper Pras Michel wants a judge to delay his trial on campaign finance and illegal lobbying charges because he says prosecutors must give him a “treasure trove” of documents about the arrest this week of Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui.
(Bloomberg) — Rapper Pras Michel wants a judge to delay his trial on campaign finance and illegal lobbying charges because he says prosecutors must give him a “treasure trove” of documents about the arrest this week of Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui.
Michel, a member of the hip-hop trio the Fugees, faces trial on March 27 on charges that include illegally lobbying former President Donald Trump to extradite Guo, a vocal critic of Beijing with ties to former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Guo was arrested Wednesday by the US on charges that he attempted to defraud thousands of people of more than $1 billion after he left China in 2015 and bought a $68 million apartment in Manhattan. Michel’s attorneys argued in court papers Thursday that the US Department of Justice has a legal obligation to disclose documents used in the Guo prosecution that could help clear him at trial.
“For the past five-plus years the DOJ has been sitting on a treasure trove of documents that it was obligated to produce,” Michel’s attorneys wrote in federal court in Washington.
Michel, who denies he engaged in an illegal lobbying scheme, has argued that he acted in “America’s best interests” by advocating for the return of Guo in exchange for American hostages. With the “explosive revelations” against Guo, he is “no longer the innocent Chinese dissident that the government has portrayed from the start of this case,” Michel’s lawyers wrote.
On Wednesday, the government unsealed a 38-page indictment charging Guo and another man with using “a series of complex fraudulent and fictitious businesses and investment opportunities” to cheat victims. The two funneled more than $300 million of the proceeds to benefit themselves and their families, according to the indictment. Prosecutors seized $634 million linked to the case.
Read More: Chinese Tycoon Guo Is Arrested by US in Alleged $1 Billion Fraud
After the Guo indictment was issued, prosecutors gave Michel’s lawyers fewer than 10 documents related to the Guo investigation, Michel’s lawyers wrote in their filing. They argued that materials from that investigation would shed light on his connections with Bannon and Trump, as well as any efforts by Guo to punish Michel by advocating his extradition.
The US, for instance, must produce any evidence related to coordinating the investigations and prosecutions of Guo and Michel, according to the filing. Prosecutors separately asked US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to bar any references to the Guo prosecution at trial. In response, prosecutors said the Guo indictment has “no connection or relation” to Michel’s case, and they have no intention of calling Guo as a witness, wrote prosecutors in a filing Thursday.
The judge ordered prosecutors to respond to Michel’s filing by Saturday.
Michel was indicted along with Jho Low, the Malaysian financier at the heart of the 1MDB global bribery scandal. They’re accused of illegally funneling millions of dollars in contributions to Obama’s campaign in 2012. They’re also charged with illegally lobbying Trump to drop an investigation of Low’s activities with 1MDB. Low is considered a fugitive.
The case is US v. Michel, 19-cr-148, US District Court, District of Columbia.
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.