Former Mandela charity head hands in Campbell diamonds

August 6th, 2010 - 9:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Naomi Campbell Johannesburg, Aug 6 (DPA) The former head of Nelson Mandela’s charity for children has handed over to police the three diamonds allegedly given to supermodel Naomi Campbell by former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor 13 years ago, South African authorities said Friday.
Musa Zondi, a spokesman for the police’s elite Hawks unit, confirmed to DPA that Jeremy Ratcliffe, former chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, had handed in the uncut gems Thursday.

On the same day, Campbell had told the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is trying Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity, that she was given the rough diamonds as a gift during a visit to South Africa in 1997.

Prosecutors believe the gems were a gift from Taylor, who had also been a guest of Mandela - then South Africa’s president - during that visit.

Campbell said two unknown messengers delivered three “dirty looking stones” to her hotel room in the middle of the night and that she gave them to Ratcliffe to be used towards the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

In a statement, Ratcliffe confirmed taking possession of the gems.

“Three small uncut diamonds were given to me by Naomi Campbell on the Blue Train Sept 26, 1997,” he was quoted by the South African Press Association (SAPA) as saying.

The Blue Train is a South African luxury train that runs between Pretoria and Cape Town.

Mandela had invited Campbell and a handful of other celebrities to take the train in 1997, following a multimillion-dollar renovation. Taylor then joined the group for dinner at the presidential guesthouse in Cape Town.

Ratcliffe said he told Campbell at the time that he did not want to use the gems towards the foundation in case it was illegal, SAPA reported.

“In the end, I decided I should just keep them,” he was further quoted as saying.

He did not report the matter to anyone to protect the fund’s reputation, as well as that of Mandela and Campbell, he added. A spokesman for the Children’s Fund told SAPA this was the first the organisation was hearing of the stones.

The police’s Zondi told SAPA the diamonds had been sent to the South African Diamond Board to be authenticated, and that police would then determine how to proceed.

Taylor is accused of, among other things, backing rebels who committed a range of atrocities during Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.

Prosecutors allege he received “blood diamonds” - diamonds that are used to bankroll conflicts - from Sierra Leone in return for that support.

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