'Blood Diamonds' Cause Mandela Aide To Quit

RactliffeMia Farrow
Jeremy Ractliffe is seen at right at Nelson Mandela's house the night of a dinner that included both model Naomi Campbell and former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Ractliffe has confirmed Campbell's story that she gave him three uncut diamonds that were given to her by men she believed to be representatives of Taylor.

Jeremy Ractliffe, the man who kept Naomi Campbell's "blood diamonds" hidden in a safe for 13 years, has resigned from the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund for not disclosing that he had the gems.

In a statement, the charity said Ractliffe had apologized, had stepped down from his job as a board member of the NMCF's US affiliate, and would no longer be a trustee of the fund.

"Mr. Ractliffe regrets his omission to inform [the NMCF] of his receipt of the uncut diamonds until now," said the statement, "and acknowledges that had he done so, he and the Board would have found a better and lawful way to manage the situation."

"Mr. Ractliffe has stated that he acted in what he sincerely believed to be in the best interest of the NMCF and its Founder and realizes that he has left himself open to possible prosecution. For these reasons, he considers it correct and proper for him not to make himself available for re-election as a trustee at the forthcoming annual general meeting of NMCF on 27 August 2010."

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Unlicensed possession of diamonds is illegal in South Africa. Rev. Musa Zondi, a spokesman for South Africa's special police, told ABC News that the investigation is ongoing and authorities had not yet charged Ractliffe, 74, with any crime.

"The prosecution will make a decision once we finish the investigation," said Rev. Zondi. According to Zondi, possession of the uncut diamonds carries a potential punishment of 10 years in jail and a fine of 250,000 rand – more than $30,000 at current exchange rates.

Ractliffe told ABC News that he had no comment beyond what was in the NMCF statement.

In testimony earlier this month, Campbell told a war crimes court in The Hague that she had received a pouch with "dirty-looking stones" from men she later deduced were representatives of Liberian warlord Charles Taylor. Campbell said she had given the uncut diamonds to Ractliffe, who was then the head of the NMCF, so that he could sell them to benefit the charity.

Campbell had met Charles Taylor at a dinner at Nelson Mandela's house, and received the gift of jewels later the same evening. Prosecutors claim that Taylor, who is on trial for fueling the blood civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone, was in South Africa to buy weapons with 'blood diamonds' for Sierra Leonean rebels.

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In a statement following Campbell's testimony, Ractliffe confirmed that he had received the stones from the model. He turned over three gems to the Hawks, South Africa's special police. The agency then turned them over to South Africa's Diamond Board for assessment. Ractliffe said he had taken the gems from Campbell because he was afraid she would get into trouble if she tried to take them out of the country, and had not told the NMCF to protect its reputation.

The NMCF had earlier issued a statement saying it had never taken possession of any uncut gems from Naomi Campbell.

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