/ 7 August 2010

Police launch investigation into ‘Campbell’ diamonds

South African police are investigating circumstances surrounding the uncut diamonds a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund received from model Naomi Campbell.

“Yes, an investigation has been launched to determine what the story around these diamonds is,” spokesperson for the specialist police unit, the Hawks, Musa Zondi said on Friday.

“The stones were authenticated by the Diamond Board … they are diamonds, but we do not know their value yet.”

Zondi said it would not be easy to determine if they were blood diamonds, which are mined to fund civil wars, “but there are ways to go about it”.

A person found in possession of uncut diamonds, which was illegal in South Africa without a licence, faced 10 years imprisonment or a R250 000 fine or both, he said. The diamonds were in the police’s possession.

“We will investigate what is happening here and interview a lot of people, including Campbell herself if necessary.”

Earlier Zondi confirmed a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund gave them the diamonds, saying he received them from Campbell.

Jeremy Ractliffe said he handed them to the police on Thursday. On the same day Campbell testified at The Hague war crimes tribunal on Sierra Leone that she assumed former Liberian president Charles
Taylor had given her the stones while on a visit to South Africa.

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

“Three small uncut diamonds were given to me by Naomi Campbell on the Blue Train on 26th September 1997,” he said 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 they could be of some benefit to the fund, but Ractliffe said he told her he would not involve the fund in anything that could be illegal.

“In the end I decided I should just keep them.”

Ractliffe 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.

“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].”

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 testified 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