Jeremy Ractliffe has resigned with immediate effect as a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) after revealing that he received uncut diamonds from model Naomi Campbell, the fund said on Wednesday.
“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 and acknowledges that had he done so, he and the board would have found a better and lawful way to manage the situation,” said NMCF board in a statement.
He received the three uncut diamonds from Campbell in 1997.
He told the board he would not avail himself for re-election at its annual general meeting later this month.
Ractliffe apologised to the board for the “possible reputational risk” his conduct may have caused. He also realised that he had left himself open to possible prosecution.
The board accepted Ractliffe’s apology and his decision to step aside.
This followed an investigation by the fund and discussions with Ractliffe.
A person found in possession of uncut diamonds, which is illegal in South Africa without a licence, faces 10 years’ imprisonment or a R250 000 fine, or both.
Earlier this month, Ractliffe admitted that he took and kept three small uncut diamonds given to Campbell so she would not get into trouble.
He handed the stones to the police on the same day that Campbell testified in The Hague war-crimes tribunal on Sierra Leone that she was given the stones while on a visit to South Africa and assumed they were from former Liberian president Charles Taylor.
Ractliffe did not report receiving the stones to anyone to protect the fund’s reputation and those of former president Nelson Mandela and Campbell.
He told the fund that he acted in a way he “sincerely believed” was in its best interests.
Police were investigating the circumstances surrounding the uncut diamonds.
They had been authenticated by the Diamond Board, but their value had not yet been determined, police spokesman Musa Zondi said earlier this month. — Sapa