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Celebrity rapper and social activist Pras Michel, a member of the Fugees hip hop group, is reportedly in need of more than $2.5 million for his litigation defense costs. Michel is charged by the U.S. Justice Department that he conspired with fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low in three alleged schemes to influence two different U.S. presidential administrations.
Reuters reports that Michel and litigation finance broker Peter Petyt of 4 Rivers Services Inc. are looking for an investor to advance the defense costs. In return, the investor would be offered possible future assets through a share of $75 million that the rap star forfeited to the U.S. government, but expects to recover if he is acquitted, and investors can also take a stake in Michel’s future earnings as a performer.
As reported by Reuters: “The proposal is akin to a deal in an asset forfeiture proceeding, since Michel and Petyt are linking the funder’s payout to recovery of the money Michel forfeited to the U.S. government,” said Adams and Reese Partner Lucian Pera, a legal ethics, professional responsibility, media law, and litigation attorney for close to 40 years.
A lender, Pera said, would probably want to build in assurances that Michel is using its money only to fund his defense. Conversely, Michel would likely insist on a deal in which he is obliged to repay the advance only if he recovers some of the forfeited assets.
Because Petyt has structured the proposed deal as an agreement between Michel and a litigation funder, the arrangement would not raise ethics concerns for Michel’s counsel.
Either way, Pera said, “I don’t see any unique ethics issues for [Michel’s] lawyer.”
According to the same Reuters article, Michel is accused of illegally funneling millions of dollars in foreign money from Low into Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, of illegally lobbying on behalf of the Malaysian government for Donald Trump’s Justice Department to drop an investigation of Low, and of conspiring with Low, Trump officials and a Chinese government minister to pressure Trump to extradite Chinese dissident Guo Wengui.
The criminal case will take place in federal court in Washington, D.C.
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