Wyclef Jean Accused of Gifting Mistress with $105,000 of Yele Haiti Money in 2008, and of His Connections to Right-Wing Haitian Politics
The Smoking Gun reveals it all. It’s all in eight pages of the IRS tax returns, and if done right, they don’t lie. They’re not supposed to lie, or else. (Paragraphs were added for more clarity.)
MARCH 11–The latest tax return for Wyclef Jean’s foundation has been filed, and while it reveals that the musician is still paying himself from the group’s funds, the charity reports that it has just instituted a written conflict-of-interest policy. So that must reassure prospective donors, right?
As TSG has previously reported, Jean and a business partner personally received more than $400,000 from the Wyclef Jean Foundation between 2005 and 2007. The organization’s 2008 tax return, which is excerpted below, shows that the group reported gross receipts of $1.8 million, more than 20 times what it disclosed in 2007. More than $1 million of that sum was wired to a Haiti-based group that reportedly provided food and relief services in the country, and also organized a free outdoor concert in Port-au-Prince starring Jean himself. Based on prior practices, it seems likely that Jean, a pay-for-play kind of humanitarian, would have pocketed an appearance fee for that gig.
The 2008 tax return shows that the group, again, paid $31,200 in rent for space inside a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and his cousin Jerry Duplessis, who is also a foundation board member (that “space” was actually a cafe table in the studio’s kitchen). It is unclear whether the rent deal was the extent of such insider dealings, since the tax return notes, “there were business transactions involving interested persons, but the payments did not exceed the reporting thresholds.”
The IRS filing also reveals the establishment of a conflict-of-interest policy that requires foundation officials to annually disclose “interests that could give rise to conflicts.” The tax return also reports that an unnamed donor made an in-kind contribution of stock valued at $534,660 (the securities were quickly sold by the foundation). Additionally, Jean’s organization reported having no employees, “only three consultants,” the highest paid of which was Zakiya Khatou-Chevassus, who banked $105,000. In addition to working closely with Jean, Khatou-Chevassus does a little acting/modeling.
And who is Zakiya Khatou-Chevassus? Is she really Jean’s mistress? You make the call.
Khatou-Chevassus is currently listed on Yele’s web site as the organization’s vice president. But according to five sources familiar with Yele’s operations, in 2008 she served as Jean’s personal assistant—working on his commercial endeavors as well as his charitable ones—and was involved romantically with the former Fugees star.
“She worked for Wyclef on all Wyclef matters,” says one source who has worked with Jean in the past. “She did whatever Wyclef needed that day, whether it was related to Yele or not. She would do things like book flights, and she wasn’t very good at it. It’s a shame that she made that much money.” The source said Khatou-Chevassus’ salary amounted to more than three times what Suzie Sylvain, Yele Haiti’s dedicated program director who is credited by many Yele Haiti insiders with actually keeping the organization running, was paid.
“Everyone knows they were in a relationship,” says another source familiar with Yele Haiti. “A dozen people, including me, saw and knew. It wasn’t a secret.” Jean is married, but he has said in the past that he has an open relationship with his wife.
I wonder how Madame Claudinette Jean really feels.
Global Grind has nearly 700 views at this writing about a Tweeted response from Wyclef Jean to these new charges:
When Donkeys spread rumors about me I dont Respond cause I’m the master that leads them to the Well to drink the Water. Yele haiti 4 life!
If you Ride with me you are on the Right side or you can follow your slave master and believe what he tells you. Yele haiti 4 life
Since some of you like to believe everything you read with out having Facts pass this around! Wyclef is A Alien from out of space.
I have been spending money n my country since I was a Fugees! why is it now after the Quake I am being Excuse! They fear I’m gaining ground
And don’t get it twisted! My Garage could fit half of the people on twitter why would I steal Charity Money! Your gotta come better den dat.
Dey had excused martin luther king @ 1 time, saying the FundS raise was for him and his Family! See the light People! Stop being a uncle tom!
Wow. So that’s why he’s a musician…and not a writer.
If anything, Gawker could only be accused of expanding on the roles and relationships between Jean and the people around him in this little foundation. As I said before, IRS reports and statements are not supposed to lie. They are formal, legal documents. It also gives a clue to where the money goes. As people have known since Watergate, follow the money. It’s also a way for someone to find themselves in jail if they commit fraud.
I gave to Yele Haiti, and I wanted to give Wyclef Jean the benefit of the doubt. However, I gave more to other organizations that I already knew had a track record of service. They did not have questionable connections and were known to directly benefit the stricken and the dislocated.
There is something else that I have heard about Wyclef Jean in the meantime that is not so well known and does not come from The Smoking Gun. Wyclef Jean has some rather dubious, right-wing alliances. From Bruce Dixon at Black Agenda Report:
[…I]t’s worth noting that Wyclef Jean has family ties to the group of gangsters and thugs that the Clinton-era CIA installed in office when it removed Haiti’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide from office in the 1990s. Wyclef Jean has repeated the contemptible lie all over black radio that Aristide skipped the country with $900 million stolen from Haitians. We understand where this comes from. Wyclef’s uncle was the Washington DC representative of the short-lived 1990s un-elected gangster government of Haiti. He runs a right-wing rag of a Haitian newspaper dedicated to spreading outrageous and self-serving falsehoods against Lavalas, the only Haitian party capable of winning free elections in that unhappy country. If Wyclef will lie about that, we wonder what else he’d lie about, and why we should trust him with our money.
Wyclef’s problems aside, one way to ensure your donations are deployed and used in a manner faithful to your intent, and respectful of the Haitian rights to community, humanity and agency, is to send them to efforts managed in whole or in part by responsible Haitians, and members of the Haitian diaspora.
Wyclef’s uncle is Raymond Joseph, the highest-ranking official abroad representing the U.S.-installed government in Haiti. He is the un-elected government’s representative in Washington. Wyclef’s uncle, who he has often praised, is responsible for fomenting outrageous lies about Aristide and members the Lavalas political party that has contributed to the current climate of witch-hunts, arbitrary arrests and murders in Haiti today. Wyclef’s uncle is also the co-publisher of Haiti Observateur, a right-wing rag that has been an apologist for the killers in the Haitian military going back as far as the brutal coup against Aristide in 1991.
There have been a few Haitian exiles who have been saying that deep political divisions should be shunted aside for the sake of their people; that they need help and assistance first. I agree, but that kind of equanimity will not last long, and it should not upheld, if temporary alliances are fraying, at the expense of the Haitians who will barely survive not only the quake but the rainy season.
So I don’t think that all these stories are coming out to diminish Wyclef Jean because he is a black man running a charity for black people, although some may think so. Rather, I think these stories are attempting to get individuals and groups to put their hard-earned pennies into something more worthwhile for the Haitian people, not necessarily to dissuade them from giving. Think out of the box.
I said before that I would never give any more money to the Red Cross after Katrina, and I still think that and urge people not to give to the organization. But there are other Haitian organizations that you probably don’t know about that are run by black people for black people. Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti is not the only black Haitian charity. Investigate, and then give. I suggest Charity Navigator for starters, and looking for credible Haitian charities within your own communities or in big cities like Chicago, New York, D.C., Philadelphia or even in Canada, which has a very large Haitian community there. Find them, speak with them, help them put charity boxes together and contribute.