The former head of the Mandela Foundation, who was given a stash of “blood diamonds” by supermodel Naomi Campbell has been cleared of possessing the uncut gems, an offence that carries a 10-year sentence in South Africa.
Jeremy Ratcliffe was cleared after a magistrate in said prosecutors had failed to prove their case.
Ratcliffe resigned from his post at Nelson Mandela’s charity last year following revelations in court linking him to the uncut stones.
In August Campbell told a war crimes tribunal in The Hague that she was given some “dirty looking stones” after a 1997 dinner hosted by Mandela and attended by Liberia’s then-President Charles Taylor.
Taylor is accused of funding a brutal rebel army in neighbouring Sierra Leone in the 1990s in order to gain access to the country’s rich diamond fields. The war there gave rise the term “blood diamonds” for gems that fuel conflicts.
In her testimony Campbell said that unidentified men came to her hotel room after the dinner in 1997 and handed her the stones which she passed onto Ratcliffe as a donation to the charity.
Ratcliffe said he kept hold of the stones to avoid embarrassing either Campbell or Mandela. He only handed them to police after Campbell’s testimony.
Taylor’s trial ended in March and judges are expected to deliver their verdict later this year.