The charity organization founded by Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake that rocked his native Haiti has closed amidst a financial scandal.
Yele Haiti has permanently shuttered its doors following the resignation of its chief executive, Derek Q. Johnson.
Johnson had taken over as chief executive of the N.Y.-based charity after Jean decided to run for president of Haiti. The entertainer ‘s candidacy was eventually disqualified when his residency was determined to be in New Jersey, not Haiti.
The New York attorney general’s office has an ongoing investigation into Yele’s finances that dates back prior to the January 12, 2010 quake that was responsible for more than 300,000 deaths while rendering more than a million other Haitians homeless.
According to the New York Times, Johnson’s resignation came after Jean “declined to accept a settlement proposed by the attorney general covering the charity’s pre-earthquake activities.”
The settlement proposed by the NY attorney general required Jean and Yele’s other founders to pay $600,000 to cover acquired debts and pay for a forensic audit covering the years since the 2010 earthquake.
The Haitian-born Jean created Yele Haiti in 2005 in an effort to give back to his native community. The charity was fairly small until the devastating earthquake in 2010, after which Yele raised a reported $16 million.
Audits following the quake revealed that $9 million of the money raised was spent by Yele on salaries, travel, and office expenses. Yele’s questionable spending also includes paying Eric Warnel Pierre, Jean’s brother-in-law, over $600,000 for projects that were never completed and with a mysterious Florida company called Amisphere Farm Labor that has no record of even existing.
In the midst of Yele’s multiple financial scandals, Jean’s spokesperson released a statement stating that he and his lawyers were trying to resolve all issues prior to the charity’s closing and that “Mr. Jean continues his tireless commitment to his beloved country.”
Portraying himself as persecuted like Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr., Jean wrote with indignation in a recently released book about insinuations that he had used his charity for personal gain. He says he did not need to – “I have a watch collection worth $500,000” – and that doubters will someday understand that “Yéle is Haiti’s greatest asset and ally.”
Jean founded Yéle, a word he coined to mean “cry for freedom,” in 2004. Now 40, he had emigrated to the United States as a child, becoming an international star with his 1990s band, the Fugees.
In his memoir, he says his journey from “a hut with a dirt floor” to “a mansion in New Jersey with Grammys on the mantle” motivated him to give back to his homeland.