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NY Post Claims Wyclef May Be Stealing Haiti’s Money..

I guess Wyclef has not cleared things up. Last year Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti foundation was accused of misappropriating funds and it look like nothing has changed. According to NYPost:

In the months following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, a charity run by hip-hop star Wyclef Jean spent a pittance of the money it took in on disaster relief and doled out millions in questionable contracts. Yele Haiti’s coffers swelled to $16 million in 2010, the most the charity had ever received. But less than a third of that went to emergency efforts, and $1 million was paid to a Florida firm that doesn’t seem to exist, The Post has learned.

Jean’s charity, which he founded in 2005 with his cousin Jerry Duplessis, was already troubled when the earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. The Post reported in 2008 that it had never filed a required tax form detailing its spending with the IRS. The brother of wife Claudinette got a cool $353,983 in contracts from Jean’s beleaguered charity, which was set up to help get the nation back on its feet.

The group lost $244,000 in 2009. But hours after the earthquake hit, Jean took to Twitter to beg for $5 donations. An avalanche of donations poured in. Almost immediately, allegations surfaced that the former Fugees singer had used the charity’s cash for his own benefit. Critics found that four years earlier Yele Haiti had steered $250,000 to a Haitian TV station controlled by Jean and Duplessis. Jean held a Jan. 18, 2010, press conference to tearfully defend Yele Haiti’s reputation.

“Have we made mistakes before? Yes,” Jean said. “Did I ever use Yele money for personal benefits? Absolutely not. Yele’s books are open and transparent.”

The earthquake killed between 200,000 and 300,000 Haitians and left a million homeless. The country is still in the grip of a cholera epidemic. For all the desperation, records show that Yele Haiti spent just $5.1 million for emergency relief efforts, including food and water delivery to makeshift survivor camps, according to a review of the charity’s 2010 tax filings, which were obtained by The Post. Yele Haiti paid five contractors to accomplish its goals, including P&A Construction — which received $353,983 and is run by Warnel Pierre, the brother of Jean’s wife, Claudinette.

A purported Miami business called Amisphere Farm Labor Inc. received a whopping $1,008,000 as a “food distributor.” No trace of the company could be found last week in the Sunshine State, but records show the company’s head, Amsterly Pierre, bought three properties in Florida last year, including a condo in an upscale waterfront community. The firm incorporated in August 2008 but never filed any of the subsequent financial paperwork required to do business in Florida, according to the Florida Department of State. The address listed for the business is an auto-repair shop in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, where a worker said he had never heard of Pierre or Amisphere. Pierre did not return a call for comment. Yele Haiti also paid $577,185 to a company called Samosa SA, based in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, as a “bulk water supplier.” But some of that money went to rent a house for Yele Haiti volunteers on Samosa’s property at the inflated price of $35,000 a month.

“Given the fact that Yele Haiti was involved in a swirl of controversy after the earthquake in Haiti, it’s all the more reason to be more transparent to ensure donors that their funds are going to help people,” said the Better Business Bureau’s Bennett Weiner.

Jean and most of the board left Yele in the summer of 2010. Derek Johnson is the new director.

Wyclef Jean defends himself against accusations inside…

In a post on the Face A Face website, that has since been taken down, Wyclef writes,
I started Yele in 2005 because I wanted to help people that were helpless in my home country of Haiti. People who didn’t have a voice, people who didn’t have resources, people who had mostly been forgotten. Since Yele launched six years ago we have helped close to half a million people. I will always love and serve the Haitian people until the day I die.

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 Yele 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. Immediate decisions were made to save lives and alleviate suffering. 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 Yele 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.

What the article doesn’t say is that the construction projects funded by Yele Haiti were responsible for rebuilding an orphanage, building a temporary assistance facility, and had constructed a system of out door toilet and shower facilities in Cite Soliel one of the largest slums in Port-au-Prince.

The Post never highlights that Amisphere Farm Labor was responsible for preparing and delivering close to 100,000 meals. The Samosa SA property referenced by the Post was located in the vicinity of the largest tent camps in Port-au-Prince. Yele chose that location because it was closest to
the people it needed serve.

All of these facts as well as photos and testimonials were readily available to the Post for their story. Unfortunately, they chose not to include these facts and instead chose to imply that Yele “squandered” donors money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Finally, the percentage of funds used is consistent with NGOs and Not For Profits operating in Haiti at the time. I have acknowledged that Yele has made mistakes in the past, including being late in IRS filings, but that is old news. When I entered politics last summer, I transitioned from being a board member and chairman of Yele Haiti to a supporter. The new and good news is that Yele under new leadership, despite efforts to undermine its credibility and effectiveness, continues its mission to serve people in need.

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