Naomi Campbell's testimony to be put on the test by ex-agent

7th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Modelling agent Carole White will Monday tell a court trying former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor for war crimes and trafficking in 'blood diamonds' that he sent uncut stones to Naomi Campbell, court papers show.

White's evidence is likely to contradict that of her former protege, who testified she received a gift of "dirty-looking stones" late at night in 1997 after meeting Taylor at a charity dinner but wasn't sure if they came from him.

White has told prosecutors that the supermodel and Taylor "were mildly flirtatious with each other" and discussed the diamond gift at the dinner hosted by South African president Nelson Mandela.

"(White) heard Mr Taylor tell Ms Campbell that he was going to send her diamonds," according to notes of an interview the prosecution had with White.

"It was arranged that he would send some men back with the gift."

According to White, Campbell "seemed excited about the diamonds and she kept talking about them".

Two men arrived at Campbell's door that night, and White said she saw them give her "a scrubby piece of paper" containing about six "small, greyish pebbles".

"(White) thought that Ms Campbell was disappointed," when she opened the parcel "because she thought she was going to get a big shiny diamond and these just looked like pebbles".

Taylor, 62, is accused of receiving illegally mined "blood diamonds" in return for arming rebels who murdered, raped and maimed civilians in neighbouring Sierra Leone, amputating their limbs and carving initials on their bodies.

He faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the 1991-2001 Sierra Leone civil war that claimed some 120,000 lives.

Prosecutors had subpoenaed Campbell in the hope she will confirm that Taylor had possessed rough diamonds at the time. He denies it.

White is due to testify for about two hours from 9:00 am (0700 GMT) on Monday, followed by US actress Mia Farrow for an hour.

Farrow, who was also at the dinner, has told prosecutors that Campbell told her and other guests an "unforgettable story" the following day.

"She told us that she had been awakened in the night by knocking at her door, she opened the door to find two or three men, I do not recall how many, who presented her with a large diamond which they said was from Charles Taylor," says Farrow's statement.

Campbell told judges in Taylor's war crimes trial Thursday that she had given the stones to a friend, Jeremy Ratcliffe, who worked for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.

Ratcliffe has since announced having handed the suspected blood diamonds to South African police on Thursday.

Prosecutors allege the diamonds were part of a batch Taylor took to South Africa "to sell... or exchange them for weapons" for Sierra Leonean rebels.

© 2010 AFP

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