The former head of Nelson Mandela's charity foundation has said Friday that he was given three rough-cut diamonds by Naomi Campbell during a visit by the supermodel to South Africa 13 years ago, backing-up Campbell's testimony a day earlier at a war crimes trial in the Hague.
Campbell told a panel of international justices at the world court on Thursday that she was given the diamonds, which she referred to as "dirty-looking stones," in the middle of the night after attending a charity dinner at Mandela's home. She said she believed they were a gift from former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, who is facing charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Hague tribunal.
Prosecutors had Campbell subpoenaed to testify at the trial -- much against her will -- in hopes she would confirm statements from actress Mia Farrow and the model's own former agent that she was given the illegal blood diamonds by Taylor.
Campbell told the court she was given the diamonds by two men who knocked on her door in the middle of the night, but she said she never learned for sure who they were from, and she never saw the two men again. She said she gave the gems the following morning to charity worker Jeremy Ratcliffe to "do something good" with.
Ratcliffe, who was at that time head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, said in a statement sent Friday to CBS News' Sarah Carter that he had received the gems, and had only in the past several days handed them over to South African Authorities.
"I took them because I thought it might well be illegal for her to take uncut diamonds out of the country," Ratcliffe said in the written statement. "Naomi suggested they could be of some benefit to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund (NMCF) - but I told her I would not involve the NMCF in anything that could possibly be illegal."
South African law at the time did prohibit any removal of rough-cut, or raw, diamonds from the country.
"In the end I decided I should just keep them. A factor that influenced me not to report the matter to anyone was to protect the reputation of the NMCF, Mr. Mandela himself and Naomi Campbell, none of whom were benefitting in any way. So I did not inform the NMCF or anyone else," Ratcliffe said in his statement, which corroborates Campbell's testimony almost to the letter.
The question which remains, and one which prosecutors tried to draw out of the career model from London as she sat on the stand Thursday, is whether Campbell truly never knew the diamonds' origin for certain. She claimed the only reason she had to suspect they were from Taylor was a remark by either Farrow or her former agent that it "must have been Charles Taylor".
As it happened, her testimony added circumstantial weight to the prosecution's argument that Taylor personally profited from illegal diamond mining in neighboring Sierra Leon, and used the money to help fund rebels fighting a bloody civil war in that country, but Mr. Taylor's lawyers proved clearly there is plausible deniability... No proof they came from him.
Ratcliffe's statement said he would be happy to testify personally at the Hague in Taylor's trial, but that he would make no further public comment on the matter.