Hawks confirm 'blood diamonds'

2010-08-06 12:00

Johannesburg - Police in South Africa confirmed on Friday that a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund gave them what are believed to be uncut diamonds he says he received from model Naomi Campbell.

"Yes, I'm confirming that. We sent them to the Diamond Board to have them authenticated and then we will make a decision after that," said Musa Zondi, spokesperson for the specialist police unit, The Hawks.

The authentication would also determine the possibility of an arrest for possession of uncut diamonds, which is illegal in South Africa without a licence.

Jeremy Ractliffe said he handed them to the police on Thursday.

This was the day Campbell was testifying at The Hague war crimes tribunal on Sierra Leone that she thought it was former Liberian president Charles Taylor who had given her a bag of diamonds while on a visit to South Africa.

Ractliffe issued a statement on Friday morning saying he took and kept three small uncut diamonds given to Campbell so that she would not get into trouble.

Prepared to testify

"Three small uncut diamonds were given to me by Naomi Campbell on the Blue Train on 26th September 1997," said Ractliffe in a statement.

He took them because he thought it might be illegal for her to take uncut diamonds out of the country.

Campbell had suggested that they could be of some benefit to the fund but Ractliffe said he told her that he would not involve the fund in anything that could be illegal.

"In the end I decided I should just keep them," said Ractliffe.

He did not report it to anyone to protect the fund's reputation, as well as that of former president Mandela, and Campbell.

He did not want to say anything else as he considered the matter sub judice and said he was prepared to testify at The Hague if asked.

Fund spokesperson Oupa Ngwenya said this was the first they had heard about the diamonds.

Dirty looking stones

"We are not in receipt of the diamonds and there is no record of diamonds in our possession at the Nelson Mandela [Children's Fund]," said Ngwenya.

Blood diamonds get their name from their links to diamond mining practices that are inhumane and are undertaken to buy weapons for rebel groups or corrupt governments.

According to Agence France Presse, Taylor, 62, is standing trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the 1991-2001 Sierra Leone civil war.

Campbell has testified that she thought the "dirty looking stones" came from Taylor when they were given to her one night by two men.

The SA Diamond Board regulates the possession, purchase, sale, processing and export of diamonds.

It also ensures compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification scheme, introduced to eradicate the trade in blood diamonds.



- SAPA

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