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Wyclef Jean defends Yele Haiti

wyclef_jean2.gi.top.jpgWyclef Jean in Miami on Saturday shooting his Haiti Relief Fund message. By Karen Pantelides, producer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Celebrity musician Wyclef Jean denounced charges that he misappropriated funds from his charity, Yele Haiti, and defended the foundation and his commitment to Haiti relief efforts.

"Let me be clear: I denounce any allegation that I have ever profited personally through my work with Yele Haiti," Jean said in a statement released Saturday. "These baseless attacks are simply not true."

Allegations that surfaced earlier on TheSmokingGun.com claimed the Haitian-born rap star was using money raised by the foundation to fund projects like his production company, recording studio and a live performance, for his personal gain.

According to a 2006 tax filing posted on The Smoking Gun, more than a third of the foundation's total revenue went to such miscellaneous expenses.

The biggest was a $250,000 payment to Telemax, a television production company owned by Jean and fellow Yele board member Jerry Duplessis. Others listed by The Smoking Gun were $31,000 in rent payments for Platinum Sound -- a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and Duplessis -- and $100,000 in payment for Jean to perform at a benefit concert.

Jean vigorously defended himself in a YouTube video posted Saturday.

"After digging kids up and finding cemeteries for them ... this is what I come back to, an attack on my integrity and my foundation," Jean said in the video.

He went on to explain that the charges were business expenses for Yele Haiti's fundraising efforts. "You can't put a show together without a production. You need lights, you need a stage ... All of these things have to be accounted for," he said.

Most charities allocate a portion of their revenues toward operating expenses.

Charity Navigator, an organization that evaluates charities, says that the most efficient charities put at least 75% toward programs related to their cause. Charity Navigator does not rate Yele Haiti, but reviewed the group's tax audits after the scandal broke. In 2008, Yele Haiti spent 69% of its budget on Haiti programs, according to Charity Navigator.

In his video, Jean also stressed that he has put $1 million of his own money into the foundation.

Since Tuesday's earthquake, Jean has been in Haiti assisting with relief efforts.

CNN's Hussein Saddique contrbuted to this report.  To top of page

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