A United States entertainer and businessman and a Malaysian financier were charged in a four-count indictment unsealed today in the District of Columbia for conspiring to make and conceal foreign and conduit campaign contributions during the United States presidential election in 2012, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, 46, and Low Taek Jho, 37, also known as “Jho Low,” were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States government and for making foreign and conduit campaign contributions. Michel also was charged with one count of a scheme to conceal material facts and two counts of making a false entry in a record in connection with the conspiracy. Michel appeared today for his arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey in the District of Columbia. Low remains at large.
According to the indictment, between June 2012 and November 2012, Low directed the transfer of approximately $21,600,000 from foreign entities and accounts to Michel for the purpose of funneling significant sums of money into the United States presidential election as purportedly legitimate contributions, all while concealing the true source of the money. To facilitate the excessive contributions and conceal their true source, Michel paid approximately $865,000 of the money received from Low to about 20 straw donors, or conduits, so that the straw donors could make donations in their names to a presidential joint fundraising committee. In addition, Michel personally directed more than $1 million of the money received from Low to an independent expenditure committee also involved in the presidential election in 2012.
The indictment also alleges that by funneling campaign contributions through straw donors, Michel caused a presidential joint fundraising committee to submit false reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), including a false amended report in June 2013. The committee’s reports were false because they identified the straw donors, rather than Low or Michel, as the true source of the contributions. In addition, the indictment alleges that by contributing more than $1 million of the money he received from Low to an independent expenditure committee, Michel also caused that committee to submit false reports to the FEC, insofar as those reports identified Michel as the source of the contributions when, in fact, it was Low. The indictment further alleges that in June 2015, Michel submitted a false declaration to the FEC in which he claimed that he had no reason to conceal the true source of his contributions to the independent expenditure committee in 2012, even though Michel knew that the true source of that money was Low and that Michel had funneled the foreign money into the election.
Low was indicted previously, along with former banker Ng Chong Hwa, also known as “Roger Ng,” in the Eastern District of New York for conspiring to launder billions of dollars and to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. That case remains pending.
An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI’s International Corruption Squad in New York is investigating the case. Trial Attorneys Sean F. Mulryne and Nicole Lockhart of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case.