Naomi Campbell’s former agent tells war crimes court she flirted with Charles TaylorBy Toby Sterling, AP
Monday, August 9, 2010
Campbell’s ex-agent: model flirted with Taylor
LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands — Naomi Campbell’s former business agent has told a war crimes court the fashion model flirted with former Liberian President Charles Taylor at a 1997 dinner and he arranged to send her a gift of uncut diamonds.
Carole White’s testimony contradicts the British model’s statements at the Sierra Leone Special Tribunal.
Campbell downplayed her contact with Taylor, saying she received an unexpected gift of “dirty looking” pebbles the night after the dinner. She told judges Friday she did not initially realize they were diamonds or who sent them.
Prosecutors say White’s testimony Monday could help prove Taylor traded guns for uncut diamonds with rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone during its 1992-2002 civil war.
Taylor says he’s innocent of war crimes.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Mia Farrow testified Monday that model Naomi Campbell told her she had been sent a “huge diamond” by former Liberian President Charles Taylor, directly contradicting Campbell’s evidence last week at Taylor’s war crimes trial.
The prosecution called the American actress Farrow and Carole White, Campbell’s former agent, to testify about a gift of uncut diamonds that Taylor allegedly gave the model after a September 1997 party they all attended hosted by then-South African President Nelson Mandela.
Campbell, who had fought appearing before the war crimes court for months, testified reluctantly under subpoena Thursday that she was given several small stones by unknown men after the dinner in Pretoria. The British model said she hadn’t known they were diamonds nor who had sent them, and suggested that Farrow or White had commented at breakfast the next morning that they were probably diamonds from Taylor.
The prosecution claims Taylor traded guns to rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone in exchange for uncut diamonds during Sierra Leone’s 1992-2002 civil war, which left more than 100,000 dead in the West African nation.
Taylor has denied any involvement with the trade in illicit gems known as blood diamonds — stones used to fuel wars.
Farrow testified that Campbell had told other guests over breakfast in 1997 she had received a “huge diamond” from Taylor. She said Campbell said she planned to give it to charity — the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.
“She said that in the night she had been awakened, some men were knocking at the door, and they had been sent by Charles Taylor, and they had given her a huge diamond,” Farrow told the court. She added that Campbell seemed “excited, happy” at the gift.
But under lengthy cross examination, Farrow, 65, conceded she had never seen the diamond or diamonds herself.
Confronted with Campbell’s testimony that the gift was three small rough diamonds that looked like pebbles and not one “huge’ polished diamond, Farrow stuck by her story, saying “I can only tell you what Naomi Campbell said.”
“I think I would have remembered diamonds in the plural,” Farrow said, calling it “sort of an unforgettable moment.”
South African businessman Jeremy Ractliffe, the former head of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, on Friday confirmed that he still had three stones he had received from Campbell after the 1997 dinner. He said he hadn’t done anything with them because he feared that a blood diamond scandal might attach to Mandela or Campbell as a result. He has now handed them over to South African authorities and they have been identified as uncut diamonds.
On Monday, Ractliffe told The Associated Press in Johannesburg that he has not been called to testify by the war crimes court and is cooperating with a South African police investigation into whether any laws were violated in the handling of the diamonds.
In court, Judge Julia Sebutinde asked Farrow whether it was possible she might have seen the 2006 movie “Blood Diamond” and been influenced by its plot, which centers on a single large diamond.
“Your honor, I know she didn’t say a few, a certainly not ’stones’. She may not have used the word ‘huge’,” Farrow said. “But it wasn’t several diamonds and it certainly wasn’t stones because … why would she give stones to Nelson Mandela’s charity?”
Outside the courtroom, Taylor defense lawyer Courtenay Griffiths said Farrow sees herself as a “Mother Teresa” of Africa, noting her activism on behalf of conflict victims, especially in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region.
In the courtroom, defense lawyers showed that Farrow had edited portions of a newspaper article posted on her website last week to remove words favorable to Taylor. On the stand, she declared Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is “guilty” of war crimes — even though he has been charged with war crimes but not yet tried.
“It is quite clear she does not have an open mind so far as Charles Taylor is concerned,” Griffiths said.
The defense lawyer said Farrow’s testimony is not credible, given that it contradicts the known number of the diamonds and involves events from a single breakfast 13 years ago.
“Either Mia Farrow is lying, for her own reasons, or alternatively she is totally mistaken,” Griffiths said.
Taylor denies all 11 charges he faces at the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone, including murder, rape, sexual enslavement and recruiting child soldiers. Prosecutors allege Taylor armed and commanded Sierra Leone rebels who murdered and mutilated tens of thousands of civilians.
White was sworn in later Monday but had only begun giving evidence when the court recessed for lunch. Defense lawyers are expected to challenge her credibility because she is enmeshed in a civil lawsuit against Campbell.
A few of Campbell’s former aides and maids have sued her, accusing her of violent outbursts. Some of the cases have been settled on undisclosed terms.
Associated Press writer Donna Bryson contributed to this report from Johannesburg.
Tags: Africa, Arts And Entertainment, Celebrity, Johannesburg, Leidschendam, Liberia, Mia farrow, Netherlands, Political Corruption, Political Issues, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Southern Africa, Violent Crime, War Crimes, West Africa