Popular Haitian-American rapper Wyclef Jean has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Wyclef is facing criminal investigations over the use of finances of his personal charity.
The musician’s lawyer, Avi Schick, confirmed that Jean’s Haitian aid organisation, Yele, went out of business in August, leaving a trail of legal disputes and unpaid debts. Regulators in the US, where it was registered, are now attempting to establish how the non-profit organisation burned through $16m (Sh1.6b) in public donations in just over two years.
A report in New York Times alleged that much of the money was spent on administration, public relations and consultants, or was funnelled to outside businesses owned by friends and relations of Jean. In one mysterious transaction, detailed in Yele’s tax returns, the singer’s brother-in-law was given $600,000 (Sh60m) for helping with the “rebuilding of Haiti”.
Wyclef’s lawyer has insisted that he is “committed to ensuring that things are made right”. Meanwhile, in a recent autobiography which details his rise to fame during the 1990s as a member of the Fugees, the singer denied wrongdoing. He had no need to improperly benefit from Yele’s funds, he wrote, because he was already wealthy.
“I have a watch collection worth $500,000 (SH50m),” Wyclef declared.
Yele was propelled to prominence in January 2010 when the country was devastated by an earthquake which left almost 300,000 people dead and an estimated 1.5 million homeless.
In the aftermath of the disaster, some of the Sh1,6b was used to distribute food and water to earthquake victims, or to give temporary jobs to young Haitians. But the rest appears to have been frittered away in a manner which did little to improve the lives of earthquake victims.
Kenyan rapper, Mwafreeka went ham on Wyclef calling him untrustworthy, in a Facebook rant.
“I’ve always wished and hoped that Wyclef would one day be the president of Haiti but then this happens. You’re rich but you’re still stealing from your people through a charity you started? Your charity pays you to perform at the charity’s fundraiser? Pras was right to say Wyclef can’t be trusted with the highest office in Haiti. Long story short: Fuck Wyclef!!!!”