The cancellation of the Fugees international reunion tour scheduled for this year was apparently not due to Covid-19-related concerns, as proclaimed by the music group, but due to member Pras Michel’s alleged involvement in the 1MDB money laundering scandal.
Michel, together with co-singers Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean, had planned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of their second album, The Score, which was released in 1996.
Initially planned for September 2021, the tour was postponed a year in the hopes that “all cities on the tour will be fully open” following pandemic restrictions. It was ultimately canceled in January 2022 as the “continued Covid pandemic has made touring conditions difficult, and we want to make sure we keep our fans and ourselves healthy and safe”.
A recently-published Puck article claimed that the cause of the cancellation was due to Michel’s ongoing legal battles. He was prevented from leaving the country by the Department of Justice, who confiscated his passport, thus making the international tour an impossibility.
Puck’s Eriq Gardner detailed, in an August 29 publication, that Michel may face significant jail time owing to his alleged role in the criminal conspiracy surrounding Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad, and his connections to its key player, Jho Low.
Now a fugitive businessman, Low is being hunted by authorities for supposedly masterminding the theft of some US$ 4.5billion from 1MDB into his own personal accounts.
The indictment also claimed that Michel facilitated the transfer of approximately US$21.6million into the US on Low’s behalf “for the purpose of funneling significant sums of money into the United States presidential election” – $865,000 through “straw donors” into Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. He is also accused of lobbying for Trump to send Chinese dissident Guo Wengui back to China.
Puck reported that Michel allegedly received US$8 million, if not more, for cooperating with Low, and was promised an additional US$75 million if he could terminate the Department of Justice’s 1MDB investigation. Michel was charged in July last year by a federal grand jury for lobbying the Trump administration to cease the investigation.
According to the report, Michel has refused to accept a deal that required him to plead guilty to an obstruction of justice charge and the lesser violation of failing to register as a foreign agent.
The bargain would have seen the singer serve 16 months in prison, and some few million of the approximately US$40 million seized from his accounts would have been returned to its rightful owner, Malaysia.
Bound to appear in court on November 4 in DC, Michel has pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, he would have to serve jail time up to 20 years.
His attorney David Kenner – who represented Snoop Dogg in the celebrity’s 1996 murder trial, and secured his acquittal – has moved for Michel’s charges to be dismissed.
He wrote in a recent dismissal motion that the case “[follows] the trajectory of so many before it, where a case with multiple defendants features a lone black artist”.
Michel, he argued, is someone “who speaks for the poor and marginalized and who gives back to such communities in enormous ways”, and is the “last man standing”.
Meanwhile, the only culprit who has been convicted and jailed in the whole 1MDB saga is former Malaysian prime minister Najib Abdul Razak.
The 69-year-old is currently serving a 12-year jail sentence on top a RM210 million fine at the Kajang Prison in Selangor.