Posted on November 29, 2011
New Questions Raised About Wyclef Jean's Haiti Charity
New Questions Raised About Haiti Charity
In the months after the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, the Yéle Haiti Foundation, a charity founded by hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean, spent only a fraction of the donations it collected on disaster relief efforts, raising anew questions about financial improprieties at the organization, the New York Post reports.
Within days of the earthquake, Jean went online to raise funds for Haiti relief. Almost as quickly, allegations surfaced that he had steered funds raised by the organization, which he founded in 2005 with his cousin, to a Haitian televsion station they owned. Jean denied the allegations in a January press conference and subsequently defended the way his charity responded to the earthquake, highlighting the successful reconstruction of an orphanage and the creation of a system of outdoor toilet and shower facilities at one of the largest shanty towns in Port-au-Prince.
But an investigation by the Post shows that of the $16 million the organization declared on its 2010 tax return, only $5.1 million was spent on disaster relief efforts, including food and water deliveries to makeshift camps set up for those displaced by the quake. For the latter, Yéle paid $350,000 to P&A Construction, an organization run by Warnel Pierre, the brother of Jean's wife, Claudinette, and more than $575,000 to Samosa SA, a company in Port-au-Prince that Yéle listed on its IRS return as a "bulk water supplier." Some of that was made in the form of rent payments to Samosa, which provided housing for disaster relief volunteers at a rate of $35,000 per month.
The organization also gave more than $1 million to Miami-based Amisphere Farm Labor to serve as a "food distributor." The Post was unable to locate the Miami-based outfit or prove that it had filed the paperwork required by the state to do business in Florida. Moreover, the address listed for the business is an auto repair shop in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood. According to state records, Amisphere's president, Amsterly Pierre, bought three properties in Florida last year, including a condominium in a waterfront community.
Jean resigned as chairman of the organization in the summer of 2010 to run, unsuccessfully, for president of Haiti, and most of the board followed his lead. But questions remain. "Given the fact that Yéle Haiti was involved in a swirl of controversy after the earthquake in Haiti," said Bennett Weiner of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, "it's all the more reason to be more transparent to ensure donors that their funds are going to help people."