*Wyclef Jean has resigned as leader of Yele Haiti, the embattled aid group he founded, as he prepares to formally declare his candidacy for the Haitian presidency, reports the AP.
The move, which was effective immediately Thursday, also comes as the IRS hits Wyclef with $2.1 million in tax liens, according to the website Smoking Gun.
The Brooklyn, N.Y.-raised singer was en route to his native Haiti and was expected to officially file his election papers Thursday afternoon at the provisional electoral council in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
“I am not stepping down in my commitment to Haiti. On the contrary, regardless of what path I take next, one thing is certain: My focus on helping Haiti turn a new corner will only grow stronger,” Jean said in a statement.
Businessman Derek Q. Johnson will take up the helm of the organization.
Jean helped found Yele Haiti five years ago to raise money and build awareness of the myriad problems in his impoverished homeland. It raised $9 million in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed a government-estimated 300,000 people. Of that, it has spent $1.5 million on food, water, tents, clothes and other products for quake survivors, Tanenbaum said.
The organization often partnered with the United Nations and other agencies to implement its programs, lending its name and Jean’s cache to help raise funds. But Yele came under criticism when post-quake scrutiny revealed alleged improprieties including that it had paid Jean to perform at fundraising events and bought advertising air time from a television station he co-owns.
Jean tearfully defended the organization in a news conference weeks after the quake. Yele also hired a new accounting firm after the allegations surfaced.
On Wednesday, The Smoking Gun website posted documents indicating Jean personally owes $2.1 million in back taxes to the U.S. government.
In May, the IRS filed a $724,332 tax lien against Jean. Last July, the agency filed a $599,167 lien against the performer. And a $792,269 lien was lodged against Jean in July 2007. The liens cover taxes due on Jean’s individual 1040 returns for 2006, 2007 and 2008. Copies of the liens, which were filed at the Bergen County clerk’s office in New Jersey, can be viewed at left.
In 1998, Jean–whose given name is Nel Wyclef Jean–purchased a $1.85 million home at 8 Cameron Road in Saddle River, where he lives with his wife Claudinette and their family. The three IRS liens were filed against Nel W. Jean at the Cameron Road address.
Other records show that Jean, 37, has previously been the subject of two smaller tax liens filed against him by the State of New Jersey and the New York State Tax Commission, both of which were eventually satisfied.