Today, the Haitian elections board is expected to announce whether Wyclef Jean is eligible to run for the country’s presidency. Hopefully, he isn’t. (A five consecutive year Haitian residency requirement is what’s standing between him and the race; how loosely the board interprets “residency” will determine whether or not he can run.) In the meantime, the New York Times did some digging, talking to some people in Haiti and revisiting the now infamous $250,000 2006 payment from Yele Haiti, Jean’s charity, to Telemax, a television station Jean owned. The money, the Times now alleges, was paid to cover up the fact that Wyclef had already spent it–on a carnival float, “a frilly blouse and gilded epaulettes” to wear while on it, and a lion, to pose next to.
Yele’s official story is that the money–which the charity received as part of a $600,000 sale to People magazine of photos (taken by one of Jean’s friends) of Angelina Jolie’s “baby bump”–was used to buy airtime on the network dedicated to Yele “outreach efforts.” Mostly, these outreach efforts consisted of spots chronicling Clef’s various adventures with Jolie, Akon, and Matt Damon. But Sanjay Rawal, a former Yele Haiti director, says the whole thing was merely an after the fact way of accounting for Jean’s carnival blowout. Jean denies this, calling Rawal a disgruntled former employee. But according to the Times:
Mr. Rawal said he knew “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that the $250,000 had covered expenses for the float, which incurred damages during the carnival. A second individual with knowledge of the transaction, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, provided the same account of events.
Meanwhile the World Food Program have cut off dealings with Yele in Haiti, residents of five different refugee camps in the country claim that Yele promised support that never materialized, and the charity’s PR firm quit without comment yesterday. On the plus side, Jean’s still finding time to release new music.
That song comes courtesy of Wyclef’s forthcoming LP, The Haitian Experience. Let’s hope that in the real world, we’re all spared that prospect.