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Mandela charity official resigns amid 'blood diamond' outcry

Aug 19, 2010

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 18, 2010 (AFP)© - A trustee of a Nelson Mandela charity who received diamonds allegedly given to supermodel Naomi Campbell by former Liberian leader Charles Taylor resigned Wednesday, the charity said.

Jeremy Ractliffe

Jeremy Ractliffe, a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, stepped down 12 days after acknowledging he had kept the diamonds for more than a decade, telling officials only when the stones came under the scrutiny of a special Sierra Leone court in The Hague.

"Mr Ractliffe regrets his omission to inform the chairperson, chief executive officer and the rest of the board of trustees of the NMCF of his receipt of the uncut diamonds until now," the charity's board said.

Ractliffe "acknowledges that had he done so, he and the board would have found a better and lawful way to manage the situation," it said in a statement, adding that Ractliffe had apologised for causing "possible reputational risk" to the charity.

Campbell earlier this month told a court in The Hague how she received a pouch of rough diamonds as a late-night gift she assumed had come from 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.

Taylor, 62, is accused of receiving "blood diamonds" in return for arming rebels who murdered, raped and maimed Sierra Leone civilians during the conflict.

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 that he had kept the stones and had never given them to the charity, saying he did not want to involve the organisation in any possible illegal activities.

He subsequently handed the diamonds over to South African police, who have opened an investigation.

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

"We are investigating the offence and who might be responsible," Musa Zondi, spokesman for the South African police special investigations unit, told AFP.

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