Wyclef Jean ‘Disgusted’ With ‘Baseless’ Attacks on Haiti Foundation
January 17, 2010
(ChattahBox)—The Grammy award winning Haitian-born hip hop artist Wyclef Jean, is on a mission to help his devastated country of Haiti. And he plans to use his fame and influence to help the impoverished Haitian people rise triumphant from the ashes of destruction. It’s a daunting task to be sure, but Jean believes that God plucked him out of the poverty of the Caribbean nation and bestowed musical talent upon him for a higher purpose. “I know that I was chosen for a reason,” said Jean in a YouTube video defending his Yele Haiti Foundation from attacks of impropriety. Soon after the powerful 7.0 magnitude earthquake pummeled Haiti to rubble, Wyclef Jean made an appeal through his foundation for donors to text $5 contributions to his charity for relief efforts. Within days Yele Haiti had raised about $2 million.
But questions started to emerge about the shoddy accounting practices of his foundation and the close relationship to Jean’s own business activities. When Jean returned from a trip to Haiti to help quake victims, he addressed the allegations against his mismanagement of Yele Haiti in a written statement on his Web site and in a YouTube video. “Let me be clear: I denounce any allegation that I have ever profited personally through my work with Yele Haiti. These baseless attacks are simply not true,” wrote Wyclef Jean in his statement.
The member of the former group, The Fugees and now a successful solo artist and producer, denounced the attacks on his foundation first reported by a “fringe website with a history of pursuing sensationalist story lines.” The site The Smoking Gun owned by Court TV, a Time Warner company, uncovers “smoking gun” documents and frequently publishes celebrity mug shots. The investigative site recently uncovered Internal Revenue Service records of Yele Haiti showing a failure to properly file required tax returns and annual disclosure reports. The documents revealed that the Florida Division of Corporations has involuntarily dissolved the Wyclef Jean Foundation/Yele Haiti Foundation on four separate occasions.
Jean’s charity was incorporated in Florida in 1998 as the Wyclef Jean Foundation, but formally changed its name two months ago to Yele Haiti. The foundation finally reported the group’s officers and directors, its registered agent, and office address to the State of Florida in 2008 documents show. According to The Smoking Gun’s report, the foundation’s most recent dissolution occurred in September 2009, but was resolved a month later with the filing of a disclosure report.
Beside the messy accounting practices, Yele Haiti’s accumulated tax returns filed in August, 2009 raise questions about payments made to Jean and fellow business partners in the course of organizing charity concerts. The documents obtained by The Smoking Gun show that “Of the $1,142,944 in total revenue the foundation collected in 2006, at least $410,000 was paid directly to Jean and his business partner for rent, production services, and Jean’s appearance at a benefit concert.”
After The Smoking Gun reports, the Associated Press picked up on the story, raising questions about the foundation’s close relationship with Jean’s personal businesses, although finding no actual wrongdoing.
Wyclef Jean doesn’t directly address the questions raised from the tax returns and and his foundation’s failure to timely file disclosure reports in his statement, but instead spoke of his love and commitment to the Haitian people:
“My commitment to Haiti is a unique and everlasting bond. I formalized that commitment when I formed my first foundation, in 1994. From that day forward, I have spent tireless hours working on behalf of my homeland on development issues as well as human and immigrant rights. I have been committed to helping the people of Haiti throughout my life, and that commitment will continue until the day I die.”
Wyclef Jean denounced the allegations raised by The Smoking Gun reports as untrue and baseless. And he denied personally profiting from donations made to his foundation, saying that he donated his own money to the foundation. In the accompanying YouTube video he said he donated $1 million of his own money to Yele Haiti:
“In fact, I have, time and again, committed significant amounts of my own money to support the work of Yele Haiti and other organizations in support of our efforts over the years. More than that, I have spent countless hours, days, months and years of my life committed to the country of Haiti, the people of Haiti and the success of Haiti.” [...] “I will never give up on my commitment,” vowed Jean.
In his video, Jean spoke of the heartbreak he endured while in in Haiti, where he helped to dig bodies of dead children out of the rubble. “After digging kids up and finding cemeteries for them. This is what I came back to— an attack on my integrity and my foundation,” says Jean in his video. Not only do I denounces all that— I’m disgusted by that,” said Jean.
He addressed payments made for charity concerts in his YouTube statement, as normal costs of production needed to put on large charity concerts. “I never, or would ever, take money for my personal pocket when it comes to Yele,” he added.
Wyclef Jean ended his defense of Yele Haiti, by putting his personal integrity on the line, asking the world to decide if he speaks the truth:
“You decide Wyclef is the truth or not. All that I can tell you is that I know that I was chosen for a reason: Being good at music. Who is to say it is not this time my country of Haiti will rise once again.”
Photo Source: Jean Wyclef/Yele Haiti