Wyclef Jean isn’t just feeling the backlash because he was “telling his truth” about Lauryn Hill in his memoir Purpose. He’s also in actual legal trouble over his now-defunct charity Yéle.
If you recall, this charity was meant to bring much-needed relief and rebuilding to victims of the massive January 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti. People around the world were moved to help in the days, weeks and months following the devastating natural disaster. Moreover, Wyclef’s name as a recording artist and candidate for president of Haiti helped the charity quickly raise about $16 million. Just as quickly, Wyclef was being accused of using the charity’s funds for things other than helping the victims. In fact, The New York Times reports, that the charity and its financial dealings are still under investigation by New York’s attorney general.
“[T]he charity effectively went out of business last month, leaving a trail of debts, unfinished projects and broken promises,” the newspaper reports. Yéle was founded in 2004. ”Even as Yéle is besieged by angry creditors, an examination of the charity indicates that millions in donations for earthquake victims went to its own offices, salaries, consultants’ fees and travel, to Mr. Jean’s brother-in-law for projects never realized, to materials for temporary houses never built and to accountants dealing with its legal troubles,” the story continues.
Wyclef stepped down from his leadership position with the organization in 2010 when he began his presidential run. The New York attorney general had, shortly before, offered Jean a settlement of $600,000 for misuse of the charity’s funds. That offer was turned down. That offer is also equal to the value of the offices that Yéle occupied in Haiti. Today, the property is abandoned, all signs of the tents and other aid that had been handed out has disappeared and all volunteer groups that were organized have disbanded. Yéle is even being accused of accepting aid and not paying what it agreed to.
An audit found that the financial mishandling began long before the earthquake. Expenses included private jets for Wyclef and his family and friends (Lindsay Lohan?!), chauffeurs, landscaping, “office-related expenses,” and even payment to Wyclef at “his market rate” of $100,000.
Hundreds of thousands died after the quake and more than one million people were left homeless. To this day, 369,000 remain displaced, living in tents and other makeshift accommodations. Using money meant to benefit homeless and hungry people for personal gain when you’re already a well-paid celebrity is despicable and ugly. A charity spokesperson said Wyclef is “committed to ensuring that things are made right.”