A-list actor Leonardo DiCaprio took the stand in the federal trial against recording artist Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, a founding member of the Fugees, who stands accused of funneling money into former president Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012.
DiCaprio, 48, used to associate with the fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low, who allegedly gave the money to Michel to donate to the campaign through shell accounts. Michel is accused of conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions using foreign money, witness tampering, and failure to register as a foreign agent of the Chinese government.
The actor, who was on the stand for about an hour, said he thought Low was “sort of a prodigy in the business world and ultra-successful.”
Low apparently told the actor he planned to contribute funds to the campaign. “It was a significant sum — something to the tune of $20-30 million,” DiCaprio said in court on Monday. “I said, ‘Wow that’s a lot of money!’”
DiCaprio was connected with Low for years. The financier also helped fund the actor’s film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor. DiCaprio often partied with Low, accompanying him on private jets to events where Michel was sometimes present as well, he said.
Michel was selected to facilitate the donations because Low could not legally do so as a foreigner, per United States election laws. Prosecutors charged Michel with accepting tens of millions of dollars to lobby the government on behalf of Low and the Chinese government.
Low stands accused of embezzling a whopping $4.5 billion from Malaysia’s state investment fund known as 1MDB, per The New York Post.
Other witnesses also testified that Michel wired them thousands of dollars and requested that they make shadow donations to Obama’s campaign, the Post noted. Michel was allegedly paid $70 million for his efforts.
Michel and Low are also accused of lobbying the Trump administration, on behalf of Beijing, to extradite a Chinese dissident living in America, per NBC News.
Michel pleaded not guilty to all charges. The most serious charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.