Naomi Campbell accused over Charles Taylor trial evidence

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The Independent Online

Supermodel Naomi Campbell was accused of being not "entirely truthful" today after telling the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor how she was woken in the night and given a pouch containing "small, dirty-looking stones" following a charity dinner.





Giving evidence to the court in The Hague, Netherlands, Campbell described the proceedings as a "big inconvenience" and said she feared they would put her family in danger.



She told how two men knocked on her door in the middle of night as she stayed at the home of former South African president Nelson Mandela and presented her with a pouch containing gems.



Campbell is alleged to have received the gift after a star-studded party hosted by Mr Mandela in South Africa in September 1997.



The model said she discussed the incident with fellow guests the morning after the charity dinner and was told: "That's obviously Charles Taylor."



Campbell is said to have received a "blood diamond" from Taylor, whose faces charges including criminal responsibility for murder, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers.



The 40-year-old model, from Streatham, south London, refused to take part in the trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague until she was issued with a subpoena.



Taylor is accused of arming and controlling Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel force responsible for widespread atrocities.



The 62-year-old, who denies all charges against him, is alleged to have used diamonds from the RUF to buy arms, which he allegedly shipped from Burkina Faso to the Sierra Leone junta at the Magburaka airfield in October 1997.





Video: Naomi at war crimes trial

Taylor rejects allegations that he possessed or carried rough diamonds.



Campbell said she had "read up" on Taylor using the internet and had not wanted to attend today's hearing.



"This is a big inconvenience for me. I really don't want anything to do with this and I care about the protection of my family," she said.



"This is someone, I read up on the internet, that has killed thousands of people, supposedly, and I don't want my family in danger in any way."



Prosecutor Brenda Hollis questioned Campbell's account.



She asked the model: "Isn't it correct that your account today is not entirely truthful because of fear of Charles Taylor?"



Campbell replied: "No, that's not correct."



The "cross-examination" of Campbell, as a prosecution witness, was branded "totally improper" by defence barrister Courtenay Griffiths QC.



In documents submitted to the court, actress Mia Farrow, who was also at the party, said Campbell had provided an "unforgettable story" of the incident the following morning.



She said: "She told us 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."



Farrow's story was backed up by the model's former agent, Carole White, who said she had even held the diamonds in her own hands. The pair are due to give evidence next week.



Speaking in detail about the gift for the first time, Campbell told the court that she was woken by two strangers and handed a pouch.



Asked what she thought the gift was, she said: "They were dirty-looking pebbles. I'm used to seeing diamonds, shiny and in a box."



She told the court that the men had knocked on her door and said: "There's a gift for you."



She said there were "maybe two or three" stones.



Campbell said she was told the stones were "probably" diamonds.



She "assumed" they were a gift from Taylor, whom she had met for the first time at that night's event.



The stones were in her possession for six hours before she gave them to Jeremy Ratcliffe, the former head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, she said.



"Once I handed them over... it was out of my hands," she added.



The model insisted she had wanted them to be donated to charity but said: "He still has them so they didn't benefit."



Campbell denied being a "boastful person" and flirting with Taylor during the dinner.



"When I am with Nelson Mandela - and I think everyone in the world feels the same way - my focus and attention is on him," she said.



She was asked to identify her fellow guests. They included Taylor, Jemima and Imran Khan, Mr Mandela and his wife, music producer Quincy Jones and actress Farrow.



The court was shown a photograph of the group, in which Campbell stood alongside Taylor.









Under cross-examination by Mr Griffiths, Campbell denied speaking directly to Taylor, the former leader of Liberia.



"I spoke in general," she said. "I was interested in him. I had never heard of Liberia before. He said that he was the president of Liberia."



Documents from the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, which were presented in court, "categorically" stated that the charity had not received the diamonds, although records showed that Campbell made cash donations in 1997 and 1998.

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