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Charity man hands campbell gift diamonds to police

A charity official given alleged blood diamonds by model Naomi Campbell said today he had passed them to police.

Jeremy Ratcliffe was given the "dirty-looking pebbles" by Campbell following a star-studded party hosted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa in September 1997.

Campbell, 40, yesterday told the war crimes trial of former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor she was presented with the gift after being woken by two men in the middle of night following the charity dinner.

She said the stones were in her possession for around six hours before she handed them to Mr Ratcliffe, then the head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund (NMCF).

The court heard the charity had no record of any such gift but Campbell said she understood Mr Ratcliffe was still in possession of the stones.

In a statement yesterday, the charity said it had been unable to locate Mr Ratcliffe.

But today Mr Ratcliffe came forward to say he had passed the gems to police in South Africa.

He said he had "just kept" the three small uncut stones until recently after telling Campbell it might be illegal to export them.

"I took them because I thought it might well be illegal for her to take uncut diamonds out of the country," he said.

Campbell told the court yesterday she had wanted the stones to be donated to charity but said: "He still has them so they didn't benefit."

Mr Ratcliffe said he had not told NMCF about the stones and confirmed Campbell had suggested giving them to the charity.

"I told her I would not involve the NMCF in anything that could possibly be illegal," he said.

"In the end, I decided I should just keep them."

In a statement, he said he did not report the matter to the fund or anyone else "to protect the reputation of the NMCF, Mr Mandela himself and Naomi Campbell, none of whom were benefiting in any way".

Mr Ratcliffe, now a trustee of NMCF, said he had handed the stones over to South African authorities but did not say when that had happened.

He said he would be a witness at Taylor's trial at the International Court at The Hague, in the Netherlands.

Campbell is said to have received a "blood diamond" from Taylor, who faces charges including criminal responsibility for murder, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers.

The model, from Streatham, south London, had refused to take part in the trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague until she was issued with a subpoena.

Taylor is accused of arming and controlling Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel force responsible for widespread atrocities.

The 62-year-old, who denies all charges against him, is alleged to have used diamonds from the RUF to buy arms, which he allegedly shipped from Burkina Faso to the Sierra Leone junta at the Magburaka airfield in October 1997.

He rejects allegations that he possessed or carried rough diamonds.

© Press Association