On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department announced that Michel and Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho (known as “Jho Low)” had been each charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States government and for being a conduit for foreign campaign contributions.
Michel also was charged with one count of a scheme to conceal material facts and two counts of making a false entry in a record in connection with the conspiracy.
According to the indictment, between June 2012 and November 2012, Low was alleged to have transferred more than $21 million from foreign entities and accounts to Michel to funnel into the 2012 presidential campaign.
The DOJ alleges that Michel paid approximately $865,000 of the money received from Low to a group of “straw donors” in order to conceal the source of the campaign contributions.
In addition, Michel personally directed more than $1 million of the money received from Low to an independent expenditure committee also involved in the presidential election in 2012.
According to the DOJ, Michel caused the presidential joint fundraising committee to submit false reports to the Federal Election Commission, including a subsequent amended report dating to 2013, one year after the campaign concluded.
Michel was also alleged to have submitted false statements to the Federal Elections Commission regarding his knowledge of the source of the contributions.
In a statement to the Sacramento Bee, an attorney for Michel said: “Mr. Michel is extremely disappointed that so many years after the fact the government would bring charges related to 2012 campaign contributions. Mr. Michel is innocent of these charges and looks forward to having the case heard by a jury.”
In a statement from Mr. Low’s attorneys, he also denied any involvement.
“Mr. Low has never made any campaign contributions directly or indirectly in the U.S. and he unequivocally denies any involvement in or knowledge of the alleged activities,” the statement said.
Low was previously indicted for his alleged involvement in the embezzlement from Malaysian strategic investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, AKA 1MDB. The state-owned fund came under scrutiny in 2015 after it collapsed, accumulating debts of more than US$12bn.
Following its collapse, several prominent newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, made compelling arguments that the fund had been effectively looted by its directors, prompting Malaysia to seek an external audit by international accountancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers.