Former Mandela aide cleared in 'blood diamonds' case

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The Independent Online

A prominent South African businessman to whom the supermodel Naomi Campbell testified she gave gems was found not guilty yesterday in a "blood diamonds" case.

Jeremy Ractliffe, former chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, had been charged with violating laws against possessing uncut diamonds. It is illegal in South Africa to possess a rough diamond because of its possible links to funding fighters in African civil wars, money-laundering and other crimes.

"Mr Ractliffe, you are not guilty and discharged," a magistrate said after just a half day of testimony. Mr Ractliffe has said he kept the stones and did not report them to authorities to protect the reputations of Mr Mandela, Ms Campbell and the charity, of which he was a founder.

"I did what I did for what I felt were totally valid reasons," he told reporters outside the court. "I have always thought I was innocent and it was very nice to have this proven."

Mr Ractliffe was chief executive in 1997 of the Mandela charity when Ms Campbell said she received uncut diamonds after a fundraiser also attended by Liberia's then President Charles Taylor. Mr Taylor was believed to be the source of the diamonds. He is accused of using illegally mined diamonds to buy weapons for Sierra Leone's rebels during the 1991-2001 civil war – a charge he denies.