Wyclef Jean Defends His Haiti Charity Following Corruption Allegations
Published Jan 18, 2010Wyclef Jean has issued an official statement after questions recently arose about how much money raised from his Yele Haiti Foundation would actually go to Haitian earthquake victims.
Jean, who is Haitian born and raised, posted a personal response on his website to the accusations that his charity was allowing him to profit personally, explaining that his motivations are purely based on helping his homeland in a desperate time of need.
As previously reported, the charity, also known as the Wyclef Jean Foundation Inc., was formed by the rapper in 2005 and has raised millions of dollars via text message donations since the devastating Haiti earthquake, which has killed tens of thousands since it hit on January 12. Jean and the Yele Haiti Foundation plan to airlift medical supplies and food into the country this week.
The controversy erupted on Thursday (January 14) after the popular celebrity crime website, The Smoking Gun, which Jean refers to as a "fringe website with a history of pursuing sensationalist story lines," posted links to the full financial statements and accounting notations for the charity. The charity statements included high expenditures for personal appearances by Jean at benefit concerts, as well as large amounts of money paid out to other companies owned, in part, by Jean. The charity also filed three years of income tax returns, from 2005 to 2007, in August of last year.
A review by the Associated Press of the Yele Haiti Foundation, including tax returns and independent audits, showed that Jean's charity was "closely intertwined with his businesses." Three out of the five foundation board members, including Jean himself, are involved in his music-related business activities.
"It's questionable. There's no way to get around that," Art Taylor, president and chief executive of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, told AP. "Here's the bottom line: for an earthquake of catastrophic proportions, do people really believe that this organization is in a position to do anything right now?"
Meanwhile, Jean is adamant about his efforts in Haiti, saying his intentions are true and he has never profited personally from his charity. In fact, he says he has repeatedly sunk his own money into the charity over the years.
Jean's statement reads, in part:
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.
It is impossible for me to even comprehend the recent attacks on my character and the integrity of my foundation, Yele Haiti. The fact that these attacks come as we are mobilized to meet the greatest human tragedy in the history of Haiti only serves to perplex me even further.
I first learned of these baseless attacks when I left Haiti late Friday, where I had been since 12 hours after the earthquake.
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.
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.
These baseless allegations were first put forward by a fringe website with a history of pursuing sensationalist story lines. The mainstream media's pursuit of them has required Yele to divert precious resources during this critical time in order to answer various inquiries. That must end.
I will continue to commit my focus to what is most important right now: Haiti. Right now, Yele is working with its valuable NGO partners, the U.S. Government, the United Nations and so many others to save lives, honor those who have perished and get aid to the millions of Haitians suffering through the worst human catastrophe of our times.
I will never give up on my commitment.