Wyclef Jean denies Haiti charity fund mismanagement allegations
Former Fugees frontman Wyclef Jean is defending his charity, Yéle Haiti, and its response after the catastrophic earthquake in his native Haiti in 2010.
Nearly two years after the devastation -- the third deadliest quake on record -- Jean is again the center of controversy following a report in the New York Post that questioned his charity's use of public donations. The Yéle Haiti organization had previously come under criticism for alleged fund mismanagement after failing to file IRS reports.
On Sunday, the Post reported that out of the $16 million the foundation collected in 2010, less than a third of the funds had gone to emergency efforts. The charity’s 2010 tax filings reportedly show that Yéle Haiti spent only $5.1 million on aid, with $1 million of that paid to a Florida firm that doesn't appear to exist.
“The NY Post piece entitled ‘Questions Dog Wyclef’s Haiti Fund’ is misleading, deceptive and incomplete. The Post conveniently fails to acknowledge that the decisions that Yéle made were a response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters in modern history and required an immediate humanitarian response. There were no roads, no clean water, no sanitation, no banks, no electricity, no infrastructure,” he said in the lengthy statement Sunday.
“Immediate decisions were made to save lives and alleviate suffering," he added in the statement. "We made decisions that enabled us to provide emergency assistance in the midst of chaos and we stand by those decisions. We did the best we could with the available resources. I am proud of the way that Yéle handled the crisis on the ground in 2010. We were able to feed, clothe, provide medical assistance and shelter for more than 250 thousand people in need.”
Hugh Locke, who ran Jean’s charity in 2010, also released a statement Monday denying the claims and further detailing how the funds were divided:
“Over the course of 2010, we spent a total of $9.2 million -- $8.2 million for programs (most of that for emergency relief and a small portion for other Yéle programs) and $1 million (or roughly 11%) on administrative overhead. Yéle made a decision not to expend all the funds raised in 2010 during that same year because people in the tent camps continued to need support. Consequently, $6.8 million was carried over to cover operations in 2011.”
Jean founded the charity in 2005. He stepped down from the board after entering politics last year.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photo: Wyclef Jean files official paperwork for the Haitian presidential election on Aug. 5, 2010. His bid for the presidency was rejected later that month, however, because he did not meet the residency requirement. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times