Mandela charity trustee quits over Naomi Campbell diamonds
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A trustee of a Nelson Mandela charity said he will leave the organization after being caught up in a scandal involving a supermodel, a warlord and rough diamonds.
The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund announced Wednesday that its former chief executive, Jeremy Ractliffe, was stepping down from the charity’s board after he acknowledged that he secretly possessed purported “blood diamonds” for more than a decade.
His possession of the diamonds came to light earlier this month when supermodel Naomi Campbell testified she gave them to Mr. Ractliffe in 1997. She said she received them from three men who came to her hotel room after she attended a 1997 Children's Fund charity event also attended by then-Liberian President Charles Taylor.
South African police, who have opened an investigation into whether charges might be filed against Mr. Ractliffe, said Thursday the investigation was not yet been completed.
In a statement, the Children's Fund said Mr. Ractliffe regretted not having informed other officials about receiving the three uncut diamonds earlier, “and acknowledges that had he done so, he and the board could have found a better and lawful way to manage the situation.”
It added Mr. Ractliffe had apologized “for the anxiety and possible reputational risk his conduct may have caused.” The fund said he would not seek re-election in a board vote scheduled later this month and would resign from the board of the fund’s U.S. affiliate.
Mr. Ractliffe, a respected businessman, has said he kept the stones and did not report them to authorities in a bid to protect the reputations of Mr. Mandela, Ms. Campbell and the charity, of which he was a founder.
It is illegal in South Africa to possess a rough diamond because of possible links to conflict zones, money-laundering and other crimes.