Last year, the Fugees announced and then quickly canceled a reunion tour celebrating their seminal album, The Score. At the time, the band blamed the cancelation on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, per a new report from Puck.News, the band canceled the tour due to Pras Michels’ alleged involvement in the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
In 2019, Michel was indicted for his involvement in a scheme to launder money from Malaysian officials through the 2012 US presidential election. Michel worked on behalf of Jho Low, who Puck describes as a “Malaysian financier and social climber who once partied with A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio, Megan Fox, and Kim Kardashian.” Low stands accused of laundering $4.5 billion on behalf of 1MDB. According to the DOJ, Michel funneled money through Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, using his celebrity to influence political figures covertly.
For Michel’s part, he was allegedly paid $8 million upfront, with another $75 million if he successfully squashed the investigation into 1MDB. But, apparently, this is where the Fugees tour fell apart, with Michel reportedly refusing an offer to take a lesser violation of failing to register as a foreign agent. The deal required him to plead guilty to the obstruction of justice charge and serve 16 months in prison, but the government would’ve “returned a few million of the approximately $40 million it seized from Michel’s accounts,” writes Consequence Of Sound. So instead, the Justice Department ordered that Michel stays in the country, which meant he could not tour.
Michel’s attorney, David Kenner, filed to have the charges dismissed. “This case is following the trajectory of so many before it, where a case with multiple defendants features a lone black artist,” Kenner wrote in the dismissal motion filed earlier this month. “In this case, it works like this: the artist, who speaks for the poor and marginalized and who gives back to such communities in enormous ways, is the last man standing.” Kenner is famous for successfully representing Snoop Dogg in the rapper’s 1996 murder trial.
Michel is expected in court on November 4 in DC. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.