Jury selection begins in trial of Pras Michel for conspiracy and other charges

The trial of Pras Michel kicks off Monday, March 27 in the federal courthouse in Washington D.C., with jury selection, NPR reports. 

Ninety prospective jurors are reportedly headed to court for what could be an extensive voir dire process. 

The Grammy-winning musician, the outlet reports, faces charges including conspiracy, witness tampering and failing to register as an agent of China, in a case that could send him to prison for decades if he’s convicted.

He came to worldwide attention in 1996, when his band Fugees released The Score, which remains one of the best-selling and most-streamed albums of all time.

But what landed Michel, 50, in the bustling federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., took place only after he tried to refashion himself as a businessman and political force in the US and in Haiti, the homeland of his parents.

At the centre of the case is a billionaire named Jho Low, who allegedly bilked Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund of billions of dollars to fill his own pockets and curry favour with celebrities and American presidents. Low is a fugitive from justice believed to be in China, so Michel is standing trial on his own.

“The defendant, Prakazrel Michel, received over $100 million from Jho Low, a foreign fugitive responsible for one of the largest embezzlement schemes in history, to use backchannel influence to convince the then-President of the United States to drop a federal investigation into Low and to agree to the extrajudicial removal of a Chinese exile living in the United States,” wrote prosecutors John Keller, Sean Mulryne and Nicole Lockhart.

In court last week, prosecutor John Keller estimated the Justice Department could call as many as 30 witnesses, with defense attorney Kenner estimating around the same number.

Those witnesses could include actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in The Wolf of Wall Street, a 2013 film directed by Martin Scorsese. Other potential witnesses include former President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former political aide Steve Bannon, and casino mogul Steve Wynn.

Michel’s trial is expected to extend through most of April.

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