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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The man who received uncut diamonds from British supermodel Naomi Campbell after a 1997 charity dinner with then-South African President Nelson Mandela said on Friday he had handed them over to police.
Jeremy Ratcliffe, the former manager of Mandela's Children's Fund charity, said in a statement he took the three stones from Campbell a day after she received them because he feared she might be breaking the law by taking them out of South Africa.
Testifying on Thursday at the Hague war crimes tribunal of former Liberian ruler Charles Taylor, Campbell said she had received some "dirty looking pebbles" after the charity dinner. But she said she did not know if they were blood diamonds or whether the unidentified donor had been Taylor.
"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," Ratcliffe said. "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 benefiting in any way," he added.
Ratcliffe handed over the stones on Thursday, shortly after Campbell's testimony, police spokesman Musa Zondi said.
"They are now being handed over to the diamonds board for authentication and whatever happens after depends on a number of other things but there is an offence against possessing uncut diamonds," Zondi said.
A decision on investigating further or laying charges would wait until after the authentication process, he said.
Taylor is charged with 11 counts of instigating murder, rape, mutilation, sexual slavery and conscription of child soldiers during wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in which more than 250,000 people were killed. He denies all charges.
Reporting by Xola Potelwa and Marius Bosch, writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Angus MacSwan