Mandela fund ex-chief cleared in Naomi Campbell diamond trial
The former head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund has been cleared of holding rough diamonds given to supermodel Naomi Campbell by ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor. Campbell’s testimony on the diamonds grabbed headlines during Taylor’s trial in The Hague.
A Johannesburg magistrate court ruled that Jeremy Ractliffe had no case to answer because prosecutors had failed to provide enough evidence to back the charges.
Holding uncut diamonds without a permit is a crime in South Africa. It can be punished by up to 10 years in prison and a 250,000 rand (25,650 euro) fine.
Ractliffe, once chief executive of Mandela's Children's Fund, had pleaded not guilty, telling the court that he did not know the three stones, apparently given by Taylor to Campbell in 1997, were diamonds.
The existence of the stones had gone unnoticed for more than a decade until Campbell testified in Taylor's trial for arming Sierra Leone rebels who paid him in "blood diamonds", or gems used to finance conflicts.
She 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.