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Blood diamonds, a warlord and a supermodel

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
The Hague, Netherlands (UPI) Aug 10, 2010
Did former Liberian President Charles Taylor hand model Naomi Campbell blood diamonds as a gift after a dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1997? 'Yes,' said her publicist Carole White and actress Mia Farrow; 'I don't know,' said Campbell.

The true answer is key in the trial against Taylor at The Hague, where he stands accused of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Prosecutors argue Taylor while in South Africa sold conflict diamonds he had been given by rebels in Sierra Leone to raise cash for arms to fuel the conflict there. Taylor denies all the charges against him.

With her testimonies last and this week, Campbell, her former publicist and Farrow were supposed to shine a light on the events of 1997. However, the conflicting statements only managed to spread confusion.

Here's what's known for certain: That Campbell, after a fancy dinner at Mandela's residence in Pretoria that included Farrow and Taylor, received diamonds from a couple of men who showed up at her bedroom door in the middle of the night.

In her testimony last week, Campbell insisted that the men didn't mention who had sent them. At breakfast in the morning, Farrow suggested that the diamonds must have been a gift from Taylor, Campbell said.

The testimony was countered by Farrow herself, who told the court Monday that when it comes to the diamonds, "Naomi Campbell said they came from Charles Taylor."

She added that she remembered Campbell joining Farrow at the breakfast table the morning after dinner and, before she even sat down, telling her about the diamonds.

"She said that in the night she had been awakened and some men were knocking at the door and they had been sent by Charles Taylor and … they had given her a huge diamond," Farrow said. "And she said she intended to give the diamonds to Nelson Mandela's children's fund."

The testimony given by Campbell's former publicist, Carole White, also differed strongly from Campbell's.

White said the model and Taylor had been "flirting" at the dinner hosted by Mandela.

"We were talking about Africa, I think, whilst we were eating," said White. "Naomi leaned back and Charles Taylor leaned forward. Naomi Campbell was very excited and she told me, 'He's going to give me some diamonds.'"

The model and her agent then waited for the diamonds to arrive from Johannesburg, White recalled. At night, after both women had gone to bed, two men threw stones at White's window, telling her they had a gift for Campbell.

White led the men inside and after Campbell had joined them, the diamonds were unwrapped. The model was "quite disappointed," White said, "because they weren't shiny," but dirty and small, just like raw, unpolished diamonds are.

Observers suggested that Campbell may have withheld what really happened out of fear. She answered questions before they were finished and seemed nervous.

The model was subpoenaed to show up for court after having denied that she had ever received the diamonds. She said she did so because she feared for her family as Taylor was "someone I read on the Internet has killed thousands of people."

"I didn't really want to be here. I was made to be here," she said. "So, obviously I'm just like wanting to get this over with and get on with my life. This is a big inconvenience for me."

Both White's and Farrow's testimony was attacked by Taylor's lawyer Courtenay Griffiths, who accused both of having agendas in the trial.

Griffiths cross-examined Farrow, accusing her of a weak memory when she didn't remember where she was sitting at the dinner table nor whether Taylor had stayed to eat. Rather, the defense suggested that Farrow, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador for Africa, was trying to get Taylor convicted because of her passion for the continent.

Griffiths accused White, the publicist, of trying to link Campbell to Taylor to smear the model. This is because White aims to influence in her favor a breach of contract lawsuit she has launched against Campbell, the lawyer said.

"You come with an agenda," Griffiths told White during cross-examination. "And I suggest that your motive for lying about Naomi Campbell is to provide yourself with ammunition against her in the (breach of contract) lawsuit."

"That's not true," White replied. "This happened. I have told people after the journey in '97 -- people that I trusted -- this story, because it was quite funny at the time, although it's not so funny now."

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