Monday 11 December 2017

Campbell at centre of police diamond probe

Naomi Campbell who could face charges over diamonds
Naomi Campbell who could face charges over diamonds
A frame grab shows Carole White Campbell's former agent leaving court after testifying at the war crimes trial.

Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg

Naomi Campbell could face charges over "illegal" uncut diamonds which she handed to the head of one of Nelson Mandela's charities, South African police say.

The model's role in the affair is being examined along with all those who came into contact with the three uncut diamonds, which are now in police custody.

Possession of an uncut diamond is a criminal offence in South Africa with penalties from a hefty fine to ten years' jail for repeat offenders.

Ms Campbell gave evidence last week at the war crimes tribunal of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

She said that she had been given the "dirty-looking pebbles" by two men in the middle of the night following a dinner in Pretoria hosted by Mr Mandela, South Africa's former president.

She said she did not know where the stones came from, but later handed them to Jeremy Ractliffe, then head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, suggesting he "make sure children benefit from them".

He kept the diamonds -- which he suspected might be illegal -- hidden in a safe to protect Ms Campbell's reputation.

The prosecution at the tribunal, in The Hague alleges that the stones were "blood diamonds", traded to fund a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone Liberia's neighbour.

They suspect that when Taylor attended the dinner in September 1997, he was in South Africa to arrange an arms shipment.

Yesterday, the model was pictured relaxing in Sardinia with her boyfriend, Russian billionaire Vladimir Doronin, and actor Leonardo Di Caprio.

Di Caprio starred in the film 'Blood Diamond', which raised awareness of diamonds funding conflict in Africa.

Elite

Meanwhile, a spokesman for South Africa's elite Hawks criminal investigation unit said that detectives were looking at all those who had come into contact with the stones, including Campbell, and would seek to question them.

They are also expected to look at whether those involved knew that possessing the diamonds was illegal when considering possible charges.

Challenged by the defence at The Hague yesterday, Ms Campbell's former agent Carole White stood by evidence she gave on Monday, that she had heard Taylor tell the 40-year-old model he would give her diamonds.

She denied a claim by Taylor's lawyer Courtenay Griffiths QC, that she had made up the allegation to help a lawsuit against the model.

The laws surrounding possession of unpolished or uncut diamonds in South Africa were introduced 24 years ago as part of a raft of measures to protect the interests of registered mining firms and the government which charges for the right to prospect for the gems.

Under South Africa's Diamonds Act of 1986, it is illegal to possess the stones without an official licence to mine, cut, polish or market them.

Taylor denies charges including murder, rape and sexual slavery. The case continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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