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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Charles Taylor 'Blood Diamond' Trial Takes Its First Victim

Jeremy Ractliffe, head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, has resigned that position following testimony at The Hague war crimes trial of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, the charity said in a statement Thursday.

Ractliffe secretly kept three rough diamonds that were given to supermodel Naomi Campbell 13 years ago following a dinner at Nelson Mandela’s house. Campbell and then newly elected Liberian president Charles Taylor were among the guests at the dinner. Prosecutors are trying to tie those rough diamonds to Taylor, who is charged with five counts of war crime, five counts of crime against humanity, and violation of international humanitarian law. The prosecutors charge that the so-called blood diamonds were used to finance Taylor’s crime

Campbell testified two weeks ago that after the dinner she was preparing to go to sleep in one of Mandela’s bedrooms when strangers came to her door and gave her three rough diamonds. Campbell said she gave them to Ractliffe. Following the testimony, Ractliffe reportedly admitted that he took the stones from Campbell and kept them in his safe. He has since turned them over to South African authorities and may face criminal charges for harboring blood diamonds.

Ractliffe has said he secretly kept the diamonds because he feared she might be breaking the law if she took them out of the country and to protect the Mandela charity, according to media reports. Campbell seemed to believe that the stones were going to be used for the charity.