Ex-Mandela charity official charged in 'blood diamond' case

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 1, 2010 AFP © -A former trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund is facing criminal charges after supermodel Naomi Campbell told a war crimes tribunal she gave him three alleged blood diamonds in 1997, prosecutors said.


Raw diamonds being sorted. Photo : AFP

Jeremy Ractliffe, who admitted he had the stones after they came under scrutiny at the war crimes trial of former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, has been charged with illegal possession of uncut diamonds, South Africa's national prosecuting authority said Friday.

National Director of Public Prosecutions spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said Ractliffe appeared in a Johannesburg court on Tuesday and had his case adjourned until October 27.

"He appeared in court on Tuesday... facing charges of contravention of the diamonds act, relating to possession of uncut diamonds," Mhaga told AFP.

"His attorney requested to be given an opportunity to make representations to the national director, which we agreed to," Mhaga said.

Ractliffe stepped down from the board of the Children's Fund 12 days after acknowledging he had kept the diamonds for more than a decade, telling officials only when the stones came under the spotlight as a result of the special Sierra Leone tribunal in The Hague.

Campbell, a witness at the trial, told the court she received a pouch of rough diamonds as a late-night gift she assumed came from Taylor after a 1997 dinner hosted by then-South African president Nelson Mandela.

Taylor, 62, is charged with murder, rape and enslavement for his alleged role in the 1991-2001 civil war in Sierra Leone.

He is accused of receiving "blood diamonds" in return for arming rebels who murdered, raped and maimed Sierra Leone civilians during the conflict, which claimed some 120,000 lives.

Campbell told judges she gave the three uncut diamonds to Ractliffe, then the chief executive of the Children's Fund, to "do something good with."

The day after her testimony, Ractliffe confirmed he had kept the stones and had never given them to the charity, saying he did not want to involve the organisation in any potentially illegal activities.

He subsequently handed the diamonds over to police.

It is illegal in South Africa to possess uncut diamonds without a licence.

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