Leonardo DiCaprio Named as a Witness in Pras Michel's Money Laundering Trial

Leonardo DiCaprio's past ties to a Malaysian businessman have put him on a list of witnesses in Fugees rapper Prakazrel "Pras" Michel's upcoming trial over federal money laundering charges.

By Corinne Heller Oct 14, 2022 12:31 AMTags
Watch: Leonardo DiCaprio Hiding in Plain Sight

Leonardo DiCaprio could assume one of his most high-profile roles yet: A witness in a federal trial.

In 2019, the Justice Department charged Fugees rapper Prakazrel "Pras" Michel and Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, for allegedly conspiring to funnel more than $21 million in illegal foreign campaign contributions into former President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign. Michel pleaded not guilty to the charges, while Low's rep also denied wrongdoing by his client.

In June 2021, they were both hit with additional charges, indicted for allegedly "orchestrating an unregistered, back-channel campaign" to influence the the administration of then-President Donald Trump to drop a federal investigation of Low and others over the embezzlement of money from 1MDB, a Malaysian development fund. Michel has also denied wrongdoing in this matter, and awaits trial. Low remains at large and is believed to be in China.

On Oct. 9, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a proposed witness list in connection with the case. DiCaprio, who had ties to Low, is the 25th person on it. E! News has reached out to DiCaprio's rep and has not heard back. Michel's attorney declined to comment.

Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars

In July 2016, the Justice Department filed lawsuits seeking to seize assets tied to 1MDB, alleging that more than $3.5 billion was misappropriated to buy real estate, art, a yacht and a jet and to help finance movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street, which stars DiCaprio and was largely produced by Red Granite, a company co-founded by the former Malaysian prime minister's stepson.

Prosecutors also moved to seize from DiCaprio a Picasso painting they said was purchased with $3.2 million in stolen funds and given to him by an associate of Low's, according to the Washington Post.

In October 2016, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation said in a statement that the actor "first learned through press reports of the government's civil action against some of the parties involved in the making of The Wolf of Wall Street," and that he "immediately" had his representatives reach out to the Department of Justice to determine whether he or his foundation "ever received any gifts or charitable donations directly or indirectly related to these parties, and if so, to return those gifts or donations as soon as possible."

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DiCaprio's rep said in 2017 that the actor had recently begun proceedings to transfer ownership of the Picasso to the U.S. government and that he also returned Brando's Oscar, Reuters reported. In addition, Low's rep issued an emailed statement, saying the Justice Department was continuing its "inappropriate efforts" to seize assets and that its recent activity marked a "further example of global overreach in pursuit of a deeply flawed case," the outlet said.

In 2018, federal prosecutors charged Low for conspiracy to commit money laundering, bribery and circumvention of accounting controls for allegedly masterminding the embezzlement of $4.5 billion from 1MBD.

The same year, Red Granite reached an agreement with prosecutors to pay $60 million to the U.S. government in order to resolve allegations that it profited from the corruption scandal, Variety reported, adding that under the deal, it did not admit to any wrongdoing.

Also in 2018, DiCaprio gave secret testimony to a Washington, D.C. grand jury to testify as part of the Justice Department's investigation into the scandal, people familiar with the case told the Washington Post, adding the actor was not a target of the probe.

Michel's trial is set to begin March 2023.

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