The Smoking Gun Gives Wyclef's Organization the Side Eye

Wyclef might have some explaining to do when it comes to Yele...

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As disaster relief pours into Haiti, The Smoking Gun takes a look at Yele, the aid organization founded by Wyclef Jean. Their books appear to be...suspect

Internal Revenue Service records show the group has a lackluster history of accounting for its finances, and that the organization has paid the performer and his business partner at least $410,000 for rent, production services, and Jean's appearance at a benefit concert. Though the Wyclef Jean Foundation, which does business as Yele Haiti Foundation, was incorporated 12 years ago--and has been active since that time--the group only first filed tax returns in August 2009. That month, the foundation provided the IRS with returns covering calendar years 2005, 2006, and 2007--the only periods for which it has publicly provided a glimpse at its financial affairs.

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As seen on the following pages from the foundation's 2006 tax return, the group paid $31,200 in rent to Platinum Sound, a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and Jerry Duplessis, who, like Jean, is a foundation board member. A $31,200 rent payment was also made in 2007 to Platinum Sound. The rent, tax returns assure, "is priced below market value." The recording studio also was paid $100,000 in 2006 for the "musical performance services of Wyclef Jean at a benefit concert." That six-figure payout, the tax return noted, "was substantially less than market value." The return, of course, does not address why Jean needed to be paid to perform at his own charity's fundraiser. But the largest 2006 payout--a whopping $250,000--went to Telemax, S.A., a for-profit Haiti company in which Jean and Duplessis were said to "own a controlling interest."

Hmmmmmm...