Wyclef Jean Defends His Haiti Charity Against Claims It Squandered Funds

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REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet

You know all that money you donated to Wyclef Jean’s charity after the Haiti earthquake? It might not have gone to actually helping the quake victims. The hip-hop star and one-time candidate for president of Haiti is under fire for allegedly squandering millions in donations to his Yele Haiti charity fund. The New York Post reported Sunday that Yele Haiti’s coffers swelled to $16 million after the January 2010 quake in Jean’s homeland, but less than one-third of the cash – just $5.1 million – was spent on emergency efforts, according to the charity’s tax records.

The Post also notes that $1 million was paid to a Miami company called Amisphere Farm Labor Inc. that doesn’t appear to exist. The company, supposedly a “food distributor,” never completed the necessary paperwork to incorporate in Florida, and the business’s registered address points to an auto repair shop in the Little Havana neighborhood that had never heard of Amisphere.

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After the allegations broke, Jean quickly defended the work of Amisphere and his charity as a whole. He claimed Amisphere delivered “close to 100,000 meals” following the quake. “The Post conveniently fails to acknowledge that the decisions that Yele made were a response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters in modern history and required an immediate humanitarian response,” Jean told the Miami Herald on Monday.

While Jean acted quickly following the quake to help his fellow Haitians, recruiting meager $5 donations through Twitter that added up to millions, he faced similar scrutiny in the days immediately following the earthquake that he was padding his pockets instead. “Did I ever use any of Yéle’s money for personal benefit, no. Yéle’s books are open and transparent,” he said at a press conference in January 2010.

But the Post has uncovered tinges of nepotism sweeping through Yele Haiti’s ranks. One construction company the charity contracted with is conveniently owned by Jean’s brother-in-law. P&A Construction received $353,00, headed by Warnel Pierre, brother of Jean’s wife Claudinette.

Despite the accusations against them, Yele Haiti touts itself as a changed organization. In fact, Jean is no longer in charge of Yele Haiti. In the summer of 2010, most of the board stepped down, including Jean. “It’s a clean slate now,” new director Derek Johnson told the Post.

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