Campbell contradicted in court over diamonds

9th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Naomi Campbell accepted a late-night gift of diamonds Charles Taylor had promised her over dinner and boasted about it the next day, actress Mia Farrow and the supermodel's ex-agent told judges Monday.

Farrow and Campbell's then agent, Carole White, both contradicted the model's own evidence to the Liberian ex-president's war crimes trial that she did not know who sent the parcel of gems.

According to White, Campbell and Taylor had flirted throughout a charity dinner hosted by South Africa's then president Nelson Mandela in September 1997.

At one point, "she told me: 'he is going to give me some diamonds'," White said. "She was very excited."

Taylor, seated near the model at the dinner, "was agreeing there was something, a gift coming of diamonds. He was smiling and nodding in agreement," White said.

After dinner, Campbell discussed with Taylor and two other men "how to get the diamonds to Naomi", and two men arrived later that night at the guesthouse where the model and her agent were staying.

"They took out a quite scruffy paper and handed it to Ms Campbell and said: 'These are the diamonds'," White testified. "She showed it to me. She was quite disappointed because they were not shiny."

White said there were about six rough stones.

Prosecutors are trying to link the gift to Taylor, whom they accuse of having taken a consignment of uncut diamonds to South Africa "to sell... or exchange them for weapons" for Sierra Leone rebels.

Taylor, 62, is on trial for his alleged role in the 1991-2001 Sierra Leone civil war that claimed some 120,000 lives.

He is accused of receiving illegally mined "blood diamonds" for arming rebels who murdered, raped and maimed Sierra Leone civilians, amputating their limbs and carving initials on their bodies.

Campbell had told judges that two men brought a pouch containing two or three "dirty-looking stones" to her bedroom at the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria.

She said she did not know who the gift came from, but "assumed" it was from Taylor. She insisted White was not present.

Farrow, also called by the prosecution to testify about the gift, said that Campbell had named Taylor as the man who sent her a "huge diamond".

"She said that in the night she had been awakened. Some men were knocking at her door. They were sent by Charles Taylor and they had given her a huge diamond," Farrow said, recalling Campbell's story to breakfast guests the following morning.

"She said it came from Charles Taylor."

Farrow said Campbell was smiling and "seemed excited, happy" and told the group of the gift "before she even sat down".

The model announced that she intended to give the diamonds to a Nelson Mandela children's charity, the actress added.

About Taylor, she added: "If indeed he is guilty of the crimes he is accused of, I am gratified that he is involved in (this) procedure."

Taylor's lawyer Courtenay Griffiths sought to discredit both women, saying White had a "very powerful motive for lying against Ms Campbell" -- citing a lawsuit she had brought against the model for breach of contract.

At a lunchtime press conference, Griffiths added that Farrow was either "lying or totally mistaken".

"Mia Farrow sees herself as the modern-day Mother Theresa to Africa," he said. "She does not have an open mind so far as Charles Taylor is concerned. She is looking for sainthood."

Jeremy Ratcliffe, a former director of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, has since confirmed that Campbell gave him stones which he handed to police last Thursday and have now been confirmed to be rough diamonds.

© 2010 AFP

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