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Mandela charity boss: 'Campbell gave me diamonds'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 06 August 2010

The former head of Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, Jeremy Ractliffe, has admitted he did receive uncut diamonds from Naomi Campbell. The model made the claim at the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor. Mr Ractliffe tells Channel 4 News he "kept" the three stones.

The former head of Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, Jeremy Ractliffe, has admitted he did receive uncut diamonds from Naomi Campbell.

The British supermodel Naomi Campbell told the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor at The Hague yesterday that she had received a pouch of "small dirty stones" while staying with Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1997.

Prosecutors were seeking to link Taylor with so called 'blood diamonds' from rebels in Sierra Leone, which funded a decade long civil war in the country in which tens of thousands lost their lives. Taylor denies the charges.

During her testimony, Ms Campbell said she gave the pouch away to her "friend" Jeremy Ractcliffe (pictured below) as she thought the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund (NMCF) could benefit.

Mr Ractliffe, the charity's former head, admitted to Channel 4 News in a statement that the British supermodel had given him three uncut diamonds in 1997.

He said he had kept the diamonds because he wanted to protect the reputation of the NMCF.

Mr Ractcliffe said he later handed over the stones to the South African authorities.

More from Channel 4 News
- War crimes trial: Campbell received 'dirty stones'
- Naomi Campbell and 'blood diamonds': Hague witness writes about the trial
- Diamonds 'not the cause' of the Sierra Leone war
- Who Knows Who: Naomi Campbell

In a statement Jeremy Ractliffe said:
"Three small uncut diamonds were given to me by Naomi Campbell on the Blue Train on 26th. September 1997.

Jeremy Ractcliffe, pictured on the website of JET Education Services. He is its chairman."I took them because I thought it might well be illegal for her to take uncut diamonds out of the country.

"Naomi suggested they could be of some benefit to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) – but I told her I would not involve the NMCF in anything that could possibly be illegal.
"In the end I decided I should just keep them. A factor that influenced me not to report the matter to anyone was to protect the reputation of the NMCF, Mr. Mandela himself and Naomi Campbell, none of whom were benefitting in any way. So I did not inform the NMCF or anyone else.

"I have now handed the alleged diamonds to the South African Authorities .

"I do not wish to say anymore as the matter is sub-judice and I am happy to testify should the International criminal court at The Hague request it of me."

In 1997 Ms Campbell, Taylor and a number of other guests attended a dinner party in South Africa hosted by Nelson Mandela. Ms Campbell told the court that after the dinner she had been visited by two men who gave her a pouch which contained "dirty stones".

"When I was asleep I had a knock at my door," she said. "Two men were there and they gave me a pouch and said "a gift for you"."

The model added she didn’t know who the men were and did not ask. She told the court that she talked about the incident over breakfast the next morning and was told the diamonds were probably from Charles Taylor. She claimed she had never heard of Liberia or its former president before then - and had never heard the term 'blood diamonds'.

Blood diamonds: war's best friend
As a diamond smuggling investigator for the UN from 2001-2003 in Liberia, I saw at first hand the importance that diamonds had on providing funds for the vicious rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone, and for maintaining Charles Taylor in power in neighbouring Liberia, Alex Vines, director of Regional and Security Studies at Chatham House, writes for Channel 4 News.

Diamonds were perhaps the most valuable assets available to all parties involved in the conflict in Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leone Special Court trial of Charles Taylor trial in The Hague reminds us that diamonds are not just symbols of love and beauty, but are valuable commodities that can in the wrong hands fund conflict.

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