Yele Haiti, the sketchy foundation that Wyclef Jean founded to help the Haitian people—which received millions in the outpouring of generosity following the wake of the earthquake there—paid Jean's mistress and personal assistant $105,000 in 2008.
That's Zakiya Khatou-Chevassus on the right in the photo above. According to Yele Haiti's 2008 tax return, which was posted this week by the Smoking Gun, the charity paid Khatou-Chevassus $105,000 as an independent contractor in 2008 for "program development." That amounts to roughly one-third of all the money Yele spent that year on management and general expenses.
So what did she do for that money? 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.
Jean has a long history of using Yele Haiti's money for his own commercial gain. In 2005, 2006, and 2007, the foundation paid out a total of $410,000 to commercial entities controlled in whole or in part by Wyclef, including a whopping $250,000 for advertising time on a Haitian television station he co-owns. According to internal financial statements obtained by Gawker in January, Jean didn't contribute a single dollar to Yele Haiti's American operation during the year he founded it, and its founding executive director resigned because he "saw hundreds of thousands of dollars going to business needs and nothing going to the charity, when it seemed that part of Wyclef's new PR strategy focuses on his charitable endeavors." In 2006, he demanded a $100,000 fee to perform at a Yele Haiti fundraiser designed to raise money for his own hometown. The event was canceled in part because securing Jean's participation was too expensive.
As the Smoking Gun noted, Khatou-Chevassus seems to have done some modeling in the past. The photo on the right above was taken at a 2009 reception she organized in New York for Prince Edward's International Award Association. (Captions from photographs taken at the event that we found online identify her as the CEO of Carte Blanche International, but we're almost certain that's an error. All of the people we spoke to who know Khatou-Chevassus say it's preposterous that she'd be a credit card executive; we've called Carte Blanche to ask.)
A call to Khatou-Chevassus and an e-mail to Yele Haiti's publicist were not immediately returned.
UPDATE: A fifth source has confirmed the romantic relationship.