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Campbell diamonds 'in South Africa'

The charity official who model Naomi Campbell gave her alleged blood diamonds to said he had passed them on to police in South Africa.

Campbell told the war crimes trial of former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor on Thursday that she had received the diamonds as a present after meeting Taylor in South Africa, but gave them to Jeremy Ratcliffe to hand on to charity.

Ratcliffe on Friday admitted he had "just kept" the three small uncut stones until recently after telling Campbell it might be illegal to export them.

Ratcliffe also said he would be a witness at Taylor's trial at the International Court at The Hague.

Campbell told the court she gave the stones to South African-based Ratcliffe in 1997 hoping they could benefit a good cause. He was director of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund at the time. Ratcliffe said he did not tell the fund about the stones.

He said: "I took them because I thought it might well be illegal for her to take uncut diamonds out of the country."

He said Campbell had suggested the stones could benefit the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, of which he was director at the time, "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" and did not report the matter to the fund or anyone else "to protect the reputation of the NMCF, Mr Mandela himself and Naomi Campbell, none of whom were benefiting in any way," his statement said.

Ratcliffe, who is now a trustee of the fund, said he has handed the stones over to South African authorities but did not say when that happened. Prosecutors in the war crimes trial had hoped Campbell would give evidence that Taylor gave her the diamonds, which would back up their allegations he traded guns to rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone in exchange for uncut diamonds - known as "blood diamonds" for their role in financing conflicts - during the country's 1992-2002 civil war, which left more than 100,000 dead.

Campbell told that court that she did not receive the stones from Taylor himself. She said they were brought to her room late at night after a presidential banquet where she met Taylor and was seated between Mandela and music producer Quincy Jones. Her evidence did not show, as prosecutors had hoped, that Taylor traded in so-called "blood diamonds" to arm rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone.


From Belfast Telegraph