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'Naomi Campbell knew diamonds were from Charles Taylor'

June 16, 2011 - London

Nelson Mandela charity boss Jeremy Ractliffe, who accepted alleged 'blood diamonds' from Naomi Campbell, has denied supermodel's claim that she did not knew that the diamonds came from Charles Taylor, the Liberian warlord.

Ractliffe told a South African court that Campbell told him she was given the diamonds by "the African leader who sat next to her" at a dinner party in 1997.

Charles Taylor, Liberia's then President, was the only African leader at the dinner hosted by then South African President Mandela in Pretoria.

Taylor is being tried on 11 counts of war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone, including charges of murder, rape and sexual slavery, and is accused of trading in "blood diamonds" to fund a brutal war carried out by Sierra Leonean rebels. It is alleged that he gave some of those gems to Campbell.

Called to give evidence at Taylor's trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague last August, Campbell said that she had no idea the diamonds came from Taylor, but fellow guests on the trip had suggested as much to her the morning after the dinner.

In a statement read to a court in Alexandra, Johannesburg, Ractliffe said Campbell recounted to him and his wife Gayle how she was given the "dirty-looking stones" the evening after the dinner.

"Naomi Campbell told us that late on the night of September 25, two people whose names she did not know came to her room and handed her three diamonds as a present from the African leader who had sat next to her at the dinner party," The Telegraph quoted him as saying.

"She appeared to be at a loss as to what to do with them. She suggested that they could possibly be given to the fund."

"I told her that I did not want to involve the fund in anything that could possibly be of dubious origin, or even illegal.

"Relunctantly, I offered to keep the stones for her and to see what could be done with them. I thought there would be no harm in simply leaving them where they were (in a safe in his home) until Naomi either asked for them back, which seemed unlikely, or life presented an opportunity where I could have used them for the good of the fund," Ractliffe added.

Ractliffe, who has been charged with illegally keeping the diamonds, has been cleared of wrongdoing by a South African court.


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