Leonardo DiCaprio Testifies in Obama Campaign-Fugees Money Laundering Trial

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio appeared in Washington Monday to testify in the trial of Fugees rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel who is accused of illegally funneling money from fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Taek Low to the Barack Obama campaign through straw donors.

Michael, a founding member of the 1990s hip-hop group the Fugees, is accused of illegally funneling foreign donations to Obama’s 2012 campaign for president, that was sourced from a Malaysian financier. It is illegal for foreigners to donate money to U.S. political campaigns.

DiCaprio, 48, testified that he was surprised by the amount of money he saw being donated to the Obama campaign.

“It was a significant sum — something to the tune of $20-30 million,” DiCaprio said on the stand, according to the New York Post. “I said, ‘Wow that’s a lot of money!'”

The Hollywood star was called to testify because he had been a close U.S. associate of Low, having taken his donations for charities as well as financing for his award winning 2013 film, The Wolf of Wall Street.

Low was well-known among Hollywood A-Listers for throwing lavish parties, inviting top executives and actors on expensive vacations, doling out flights on his private jet, and attending and donating at numerous charity events. But he is now accused of embezzling his millions and is on the run.

DiCaprio also testified that Low once invited him to fly to Australia to celebrate New Year’s Day, then quickly flew him to Las Vegas to celebrate the same turn of the calendar in the U.S. all in the same day. He added that Fugees rapper Michael was often included in the same trips with Low that DiCaprio enjoyed.

Federal prosecutors say that Michael distributed up to $21.6 million of Low’s money to some 20 straw donors who then donated the money to Obama. The straw donors were U.S. citizens employed to make the donations to shield the fact that the money actually came illegally from a foreign donor.

Michael is alleged to have been paid $70 million by Low to affect the donations scheme and other services he provided. Michael has been charged with 11 criminal counts of trying to influence the Obama and Trump administrations.

Prosecutors also say that Michael worked with a Republican consultant “fixer” to convince the Trump administration to shut down an investigation in the Low on embezzling charges and also of working to convince President Donald Trump to return a Chinese dissident to China.

“It almost worked,” said federal prosecutor Nicole Rae Lockhart. “The defendant wanted money and was willing to break any laws necessary to get paid.”

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