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Leonardo DiCaprio testifies in conspiracy and fraud trial of Fugees rapper Pras Michel

Leonardo DiCaprioLeonardo DiCaprio attends the world premiere of Netflix’s “Don’t Look Up” on December 05, 2021 in New York City.

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  • Leonardo DiCaprio testified in a high-profile trial of Fugees member Pras Michel.
  • Michel faces charges connected to his relationship with Malaysian businessman Jho Low.
  • Low helped finance the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” that DiCaprio starred in.

Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio on Monday became the first star witness in the trial of Pras Michel, a member of the 1990s hip-hop group Fugees who is facing criminal charges related to an alleged international fraud scheme. 

Federal prosecutors claim Michel funneled money from Malaysian businessman and fugitive Jho Low to illegally contribute to President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection. Separately, Michel is also accused of conspiring with Low to lobby President Donald Trump’s administration in 2017 to drop an investigation into Low’s financial dealings and remove a Chinese dissident from the US. 

DiCaprio is among many high-profile figures linked to Low, who’s been accused of embezzling $4 billion from his country’s sovereign wealth fund and remains at large. Authorities say Low used the stolen money to bankroll an extravagant lifestyle, including hosting lavish Hollywood parties, acquiring famous artwork and luxury real estate, supporting DiCaprio’s charity foundation, and helping finance the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” that DiCaprio starred in. The 48-year-old actor is not accused of any criminal wrongdoing. 

DiCaprio, testifying for almost an hour on Monday, said he thought Low was a “successful businessman” who had been making global investments and that it’s “somewhat” common to receive foreign funds to finance Hollywood movies.

“I did not believe it was illegal,” DiCaprio said in federal court in Washington, DC.

Prosecutors say that Low and Riza Aziz, the stepson of Malaysia’s former prime minster, provided $100 million to finance “The Wolf of Wall Street” through their production company Red Granite Pictures. DiCaprio thanked both of them during a Golden Globe awards acceptance speech for the movie in 2014.

The A-list celebrity told jurors that he met Low in 2010 at a “lavish birthday party” in Las Vegas, and the pair went on to remain in touch, traveling together and attending events across the world, including a New Year’s Eve party in Australia and the World Cup in Brazil. 

DiCaprio testified that at one point he talked about the 2012 election with Low, who had discussed contributing a massive $20 to $30 million to the Democratic Party. 

“Wow, that’s a lot of money,” DiCaprio recalled telling Low at the time.

Prosecutors allege that Michel channeled millions of dollars in payments from Low and covered up the source of that foreign money by using straw donors to contribute to Obama’s reelection campaign. Michel faces several charges, including conspiring to make and conceal foreign campaign contributions and witness tampering. 

The trial, now in its second week, could feature other prominent witnesses including Trump’s former White House chief of staff John Kelly, former national security advisor H.R. McMaster, and casino mogul Steve Wynn. 

Read the original article on Business Insider
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