Naomi Campbell admits receiving diamonds gift

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Supermodel Naomi Campbell on Thursday admitted receiving a gift of rough diamonds, in testimony sought by war crimes prosecutors trying to link ex-warlord Charles Taylor to the illegally mined stones.

Campbell denied knowing who sent the alleged "blood diamonds", telling a war crimes court in The Hague she later assumed they came from Taylor after discussing the gift with actress Mia Farrow and her then modelling agent Carole White the following morning.

The model was giving evidence at the trial of Taylor who denies receiving the diamonds in return for arming rebels who murdered, raped and maimed Sierra Leone civilians, cutting off their limbs and carving initials into their bodies.

The late-night gift was delivered to Campbell's room after a 1997 celebrity dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela, then South African president.

The model said she was woken after the dinner by two men knocking at her door of her hotel room. They "gave me a pouch and said 'a gift for you'," she told the court, dressed in a beige two-piece suit.

Campbell said she left the pouch next to her bed, went back to bed and opened it the next morning.

"I saw a few stones in there. Very small, dirty-looking stones," she said, adding that "there was no explanation, no note."

At breakfast that morning, she told White and Farrow about the gift.

"One of the two said 'that is obviously Charles Taylor' and I said 'yes I guess it was'," she said.

Campbell's testimony comes after a lull in media interest in Taylor's three-year-old trial on 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 of the Special Court for Sierra Leone called Campbell, 40, to the stand in a bid to disprove the former Liberian president's claim that he never possessed rough diamonds.

Campbell added that she gave the stones to a friend, an official of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, "to do something with."

"I didn't want to keep them," she said, adding there were "maybe three, two or three," stones in the pouch.

She said she never saw Taylor again after the dinner and never confronted him about the gift, which she said she had not found strange.

"I get gifts given to me all the time, at all hours of the night," she told the court, adding that "it is quite normal for me to receive gifts."

Taylor, 62, allegedly took the diamonds to South Africa "to sell... or exchange them for weapons."

Taylor, accused of seeking to "take political and physical control of Sierra Leone in order to exploit its abundant natural resources ... diamonds", has denied the claims.

White and Farrow, who both attended the dinner, are to testify about the gift next Monday.

White claims she was present when the diamond was delivered, while Farrow says Campbell told her about it the next morning over breakfast.

The feisty model had refused to talk to prosecutors, citing fears for her family's safety, which prompted them to get a court subpoena for her testimony.

Taylor's lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, has described Campbell's testimony as "nothing but a cheap publicity stunt". More than 200 journalists from around the world had sought accreditation for Thursday's hearing.

The court had granted an order sought by Campbell that she should not be photographed arriving for her testimony or departing afterwards.

© 2010 AFP

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