/ 27 October 2010

Former Mandela fund trustee due in court

Former Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund trustee Jeremy Ractliffe was expected to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday on a charge relating to the possession of uncut diamonds.

Ractliffe resigned from the fund in August after it was revealed that he received three uncut diamonds from super model Naomi Campbell in 1997, when he was chief executive of the fund.

Ractliffe apologised to the board for the “possible reputational risk” his conduct may have caused. He also said he realised that he had left himself open to possible prosecution.

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.

Ractliffe is facing charges relating to the contravention of the Diamonds Act.

Ractliffe admitted for the first time earlier this year that he took and kept the three small diamonds given to Campbell so that she would not get into trouble.

Prosecutors in The Hague summoned Campbell to back their allegations that former Liberian leader Charles Taylor received diamonds from rebels in Sierra Leone, which they say he then used to buy weapons during a 1997 trip to South Africa.

“Blood diamonds” are diamonds mined in conflict zones and sold to fund warring parties.

Testifying at The Hague war crimes tribunal of Taylor in August, Campbell said she had received some “dirty looking pebbles” after the charity dinner.

She said she did not know if they were blood diamonds or whether the unidentified donor had been Taylor. – Sapa, Reuters