DiCaprio testifies in Fugees rapper’s lobbying trial

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has testified as a witness in court in a major lobbying case.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has testified as a witness in court in a major lobbying case. Photo: Getty

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has told a federal court in Washington that Malaysian financier Jho Low tried to funnel up to $US30 million ($45 million) to President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign as part of a far-reaching influence operation.

“I basically said, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of money,'” DiCaprio testified on Monday.

The Titanic star was testifying in the trial of rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel of The Fugees hip hop group, who US prosecutors accuse of illegally taking tens of millions of dollars to lobby the US government on behalf of Low and the Chinese government.

DiCaprio is one of several prominent figures linked to Low, who is suspected of embezzling $US4.5 billion ($6.7 billion) from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund.

The financier, who was known to pay Hollywood celebrities to party with him, supported DiCaprio’s charitable foundation and helped fund The Wolf of Wall Street, the 2013 movie in which DiCaprio starred.

DiCaprio has been cooperating with the US government’s investigation.

He managed to enter the courthouse without being spotted by news crews that had been staking out his arrival.

Michel is accused of profiting from an alleged embezzling scheme by Low, as well as a Chinese government influence campaign aimed at repatriating dissident Guo Wengui.

Michel faces 11 criminal counts for trying to influence the administrations of Obama and former President Donald Trump. Michel has denied the allegations.

The Fugees won two Grammy Awards for their best-selling 1996 album The Score. But by 2012, prosecutors said, Michel was in dire need of cash.

Prosecutors said Michel agreed to funnel money into Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and hide the source of the funds. Federal election law prohibits foreigners from donating to US campaigns.

Prosecutors said Michel later waged an illegal influence campaign to persuade the Trump administration to stop investigating Low.

Michel and other co-conspirators are also accused of lobbying the Trump administration at China’s behest to return Guo to China.

Prosecutors said Michel was paid $US70 million ($104 million) for his work.

Michel’s lawyers are expected to argue that Michel did not know he was acting as a foreign agent and believed he was furthering American interests.

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