Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean is defending his charity following allegation of financial misconduct.
In a YouTube video posted Friday and again in a tearful news conference held this afternoon in New York, the former Fugee admitted “mistakes” had been made but insisted that money raised for The Wyclef Jean Foundation, also known as Yele Haiti, had not been misused.
“Have we made mistakes before? Yes,” he said. “Did I ever use Yele money for personal benefits? Absolutely not.
“Yele’s books are open and transparent, and we have been a clean bill of heath by an external auditor every year since we started,” he said.
His comments come after the Smoking Gun noted that Yele’s tax returns indicated Wyclef and his cousin had not filed on time and had been paid large sums of money from previous donations.
Jean was initially praised for his role in spearheading charitable giving to Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake, but the past days have seen mounting criticism over his charity’s handling of the $2 million-plus donations it has received in just one week.
Although Jean solicited donations for Yele Haiti on Twitter under the guise of providing immediate relief for earthquake victims, the organization’s president admitted during Monday’s news conference that might not be strictly accurate.
“Yele Haiti hasn’t spent one dollar yet on earthquake relief — though they have accepted free space on airlifts to deliver in-kind donations of supplies,” Gawker noted.
The Manhattan blog also quoted a source close to the organization as saying that Yele Haiti is “not a disaster relief organization” but rather a charity better at providing the “second-order” aid of rebuilding for the long term.