*An official at a Nelson Mandela charity said Friday he kept uncut diamonds given to him from supermodel Naomi Campbell for over a decade, and handed them to police only when she testified Thursday at a war crimes trial.
The supermodel told a court in The Hague how she was at a 1997 dinner hosted by then South African president Nelson Mandela when she received a pouch of rough diamonds as a late-night gift she assumed came from former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, who is charged with murder, rape and enslavement for his alleged role in the 1991-2001 civil war in Sierra Leone that claimed some 120,000 lives.
Campbell told judges she gave the stones to Jeremy Ratcliffe, then the chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, to “do something good with.” But she claimed she spoke to Ratcliffe last year, “and he still has them.”
In a statement, Ratcliffe confirmed Friday that he kept the three uncut diamonds and never gave them to the charity, which has denied ever receiving them.
“Three small uncut diamonds were given to me by Naomi Campbell on the Blue Train on September 26, 1997,” Ratcliffe said, referring to the luxury train he took with Campbell and other guests of Mandela.
Campbell had wanted the fund to use them, but Ratcliffe said he did not want to involve the charity in any possible illegal activities.
“In the end I decided I should just keep them,” he said, but added that he recently handed them over to South African authorities. Police confirmed they received the stones on Thursday.
“They were handed over to the police and now they have been sent to the diamond board for authentication,” said Musa Zondi, spokesman for the special investigations unit of the South African police.
Ratcliffe, who is no longer chief executive of the Children’s Fund but is still a trustee, said in his statement he is willing to testify in Taylor’s trial if the court calls him as a witness.
Taylor, 62, is accused of receiving illegally mined “blood diamonds” in return for arming rebels who murdered, raped and maimed Sierra Leone civilians during the country’s civil war, cutting off their limbs and carving initials into their bodies.
Prosecutors had subpoenaed Campbell in a bid to cast doubt on Taylor’s credibility and to try to disprove his claim he never possessed rough diamonds.