Watch: Wyclef Jean, Yele organizers defend Haiti foundation against profit allegations
Wyclef Jean is preparing for "Hope for Haiti" telethon appearance alongside George Clooney and Anderson Cooper for Jan. 22 to raise money for the earthquake recovery effort in Haiti, but the rapper has also been taking time out to respond to accusations that he's personally profiting from his own Yele Haiti Foundation.
Millions of dollars have been pouring into Yele via text messages to 501501 since the quake on Jan. 12. Jean is a native of the impoverished country and has been making several trips to help with the recovery efforts, becoming one of the loudest voices in the media to encourage donations to the nation's relief.
The Smoking Gun last week alleged that Jean earned thousands of dollars for performing at his own charity functions and that unseemly amounts of cash were going toward renting a production studio and purchasing television air time and PR for Yele. The report claimed that Yele has filed taxes only once in its 12 years of operation.
"...[T]he group paid $31,200 in rent to Platinum Sound, a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and Jerry Duplessis, who, like Jean, is a foundation board member. A $31,200 rent payment was also made in 2007 to Platinum Sound... The recording studio also was paid $100,000 in 2006 for the 'musical performance services of Wyclef Jean at a benefit concert'... [A] whopping $250,000 went to Telemax, S.A., a for-profit Haiti company in which Jean and Duplessis were said to 'own a controlling interest'... The group's tax returns also report 'consultant' payments totaling $300,000 between 2005-2007, while the 2006 return reported nearly $225,000 in 'promotion and PR' costs."
Jean has since made his way to YouTube in response to the report, calling it "an attack on my integrity, and my foundation." See the full video below. The Yele foundation has also posted on its website that a press conference is coming this afternoon at 2 p.m. EST -- though, no telling if it will be a further refutation of the accusations or if it will focus on new benefits in the coming days.
Additionally, Yele Haiti president Hugh Locke has released a point by point response:
Wyclef Jean, the founder of Yéle Haiti has never profited from his organization. It’s a shame that during this international emergency, we have had to divert resources away from our response efforts to address these allegations.
Yéle Haiti Financial Facts
Fact: Yéle Haiti, originally called the Wyclef Jean Foundation, filed a tax return in 2000 and then suspended activities until 2005 and so was not required by law to file a tax return until it resumed operation.
Fact: Yéle Haiti received a clean bill of health in independent external audits conducted in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 by the firm of Tempesta & Farrell, P.C..
Fact: Yéle Haiti was guided by the firm of Grant Thornton LLP to ensure that all transactions involving board members Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis were conducted to fully comply with both the spirit and letter of the law governing such matters.
Fact: Yéle Haiti offices are located in Platinum Sound, the recording studio owned by Wyclef and Jerry Duplessis in order to save money. The organization pays only $2,600 a month for the space and a shared reception service, instead of considerably more for the same arrangement in midtown Manhattan.
Fact: Wyclef Jean was paid $100,000 in connection with a benefit concert in Monte Carlo in 2006, which was organized by a for-profit organization. The vast majority of that amount went towards costs related to the performance, including the hiring of backing musicians and other costs related to the production.
Fact: Yéle Haiti purchased $250,000 of airtime on the commercial television station Telemax in Haiti that is owned by Wyclef and Jerry. We have documentation allocating the hundreds of hours of Yéle programming, over several years, that addressed a wide range of development and social issues in Haiti.