Africa

Mandela aide charged over Naomi Campbell diamonds

Naomi Campbell in court in The Hague on 5 August, 2010
Image caption Naomi Campbell gave the diamonds to Jeremy Ractliffe in 1997

The former head of Nelson Mandela's charity fund has been charged with illegally keeping uncut diamonds given to him by supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Jeremy Ractliffe admitted he had the gems only when Ms Campbell mentioned him at ex-Liberian leader Charles Taylor's war crimes trial in August.

He then handed the gems to police and resigned as a trustee of the fund.

Prosecutors say the stones are "blood diamonds" which Mr Taylor gave to Ms Campbell after a dinner in 1997.

Ms Campbell gave evidence at Mr Taylor's trial before a UN special court in The Hague in August.

'Dirty-looking stones'

South African prosecutors have now charged Mr Ractliffe, the former chief executive of the Nelson Mandela's Children's Fund (NMCF), under the Diamonds Act of 1956.

His case has been adjourned until 27 October.

At the trial, Ms Campbell said she was given some "dirty-looking stones" after a 1997 charity dinner hosted by South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela where Mr Taylor was also a guest.

She said two unidentified men appeared at her room and gave her the stones.

She told the court she did not have proof they came from Mr Taylor and had given them to Mr Ractliffe because she wanted the stones to go to charity.

In a statement at the time of his resignation, Mr Ractliffe said he took the diamonds as he thought it might be illegal for her to take them out of the country.

However, he did not want to involve the NMCF in anything illegal, he said.

"In the end I decided I should just keep them," he added.

Mr Taylor is accused of using illegally mined diamonds to secure weapons for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels during the 1991-2001 civil war - a charge he denies.

He said he kept them to shield the reputations of Mr Mandela and his fund.

Prosecutors say that from his seat of power in Liberia, Mr Taylor also trained and commanded the rebels.

The rebels were notoriously brutal, frequently hacking off the hands and legs of civilians.

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