BLOG: Could The Fugees' Pras Michel Be Charged with a FARA Violation?
Caplin & Drysdale

BLOG: Could The Fugees' Pras Michel Be Charged with a FARA Violation?

Date: 5/23/2019

Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, a member of the 1990s musical group The Fugees, was indicted earlier this month for violating federal campaign finance and tax laws. The charges stemmed from Pras allegedly making $865,000 worth of illegal “straw donations” through a network of 20 people to the 2012 Obama presidential campaign on behalf of disgraced Malaysian financier Jho Low. Pras also allegedly gave more than $1 million of Mr. Low’s money to an independent expenditure committee in his name and in the name of his company. The effort was, according to the indictment, intended to “gain access to, and potential influence with,” the Obama Administration and allowed associates of Mr. Low to attend events hosted by both the presidential campaign and the White House.

Could Pras also have been charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”)? Potentially.

FARA would require Pras to have registered with the Department of Justice within 10 days of becoming an “agent of a foreign principal” unless he fell within an exemption. The initial part of the legal analysis is straightforward: Mr. Low is a “foreign principal” because he is a foreign national and the facts alleged in the indictment contain clear indications that Pras was acting for, on behalf of, or at the order/request/direction/control of Mr. Low. Pras would therefore have been required to register under FARA within 10 days if he was engaged in FARA-registrable activities and he was not eligible for an exemption.

Did Pras Engage in FARA-Registrable Activities?

FARA covers any “agent” acting within the United States who represents “the interests of [a] foreign principal before any … official of the Government of the United States” or who engages in “political activities,” which is a broad term that encompasses “any activity that the person engaging in believes will, or that the person intends to, in any way influence any agency or official of the Government of the United States…”

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