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Diamond charge charity boss cleared

A former South African charity boss has been cleared of illegally possessing diamonds allegedly given to him by supermodel Naomi Campbell

Jeremy Ractliffe, former chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, had been charged with violating laws against possessing uncut diamonds.

It is illegal in South Africa to possess a rough diamond because of possible links to diamonds sold to fund fighters in African civil wars.

Magistrate Renier Boshoff issued the verdict in Johannesburg.

Mr Ractliffe was chief executive in 1997 of the Mandela charity and Ms Campbell said passed on to him uncut diamonds given to her after a fund raising event also attended by Liberian President Charles Taylor, believed to be their source.

Taylor is being tried in The Hague for trading in illegal diamonds.

Mr Ractliffe said he kept the stones and did not report them to authorities in a bid to protect the reputations of Mr Mandela, Ms Campbell and the charity, of which he was a founder.

Ms Campbell gave evidence during Taylor's war crimes trial at the Hague she received the diamonds from three men who came to her hotel room after the fund-raising dinner. She said that she did not know the source of the diamonds, but other witnesses said she bragged about getting them from Taylor.

Ms Campbell said she gave Mr Ractliffe the diamonds the morning after she received them, as a donation to Mr Mandela's charity. Mr Ractliffe said he did not tell the foundation about the diamonds, and kept the stones in a safe for 13 years until he handed them over to police after Ms Campbell's evidence in August last year.

Mr Ractliffe had already stepped down as chief executive by last August. He resigned as a trustee after the diamond scandal broke.

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