Rapper fights US forfeiture complaint over 1MDB

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KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 29): American rapper Pras, who is a founding member of 1990s hip hop group The Fugees, is fighting the US Government over a multimillion-dollar forfeiture complaint concerning 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The report stated that Pras, whose real name is Prakazrel Samuel Michel, faces allegations in a civil forfeiture claim that he aided a scheme to try to get the US Justice Department to drop an investigation into embezzlement from 1MDB.

The complaint state that Pras was engaged by the brother of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or better known as Jho Low, to join the illicit lobbying effort, and that Pras had helped by opening bank accounts under false pretenses to finance the scheme, the AP reported.

The report added that US Justice Department officials are trying to recover roughly US$38mil (RM156mil) from Pras that they say can be connected to that effort.

Barry Pollack who is the rapper’s lawyer had asked for the complaint to be dismissed.

AP reported that Pollack said that the Justice Department had failed to present sufficient allegations of bank fraud, conspiracy and false statements, or that the funds in the accounts the Government wants to seize were proceeds of fraud.

He then requested for a hearing on his arguments. Meanwhile, Pras has denied any wrongdoing.

AP reported that a former Justice Department official, George Higginbotham, pleaded guilty in November for his role in that lobbying, marking the first public acknowledgement of a secret attempt to pressure American officials to drop their probe into 1MDB.

Prosecutors say Higginbotham, who worked on the congressional affairs staff in the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, helped open bank accounts and created false loan documents for shell companies as part of the scheme, AP reported.