A Liberian business woman testifying on behalf of Charles Taylor today told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague that she received phone calls from several people asking to speak with Mr. Taylor after a prosecution witness told the court in 2008 that her mobile phone number was the number used by Mr. Taylor while he was president of Liberia. The phone number in question, the witness said, has never belonged to Mr. Taylor. Furthermore, the witness noted, it is her personal phone number that she has used since the cell phone company that the number is subscribed to started operations in Liberia in 2001.
In 2008, a protected prosecution witness told the court that a particular mobile phone number subscribed to the Liberian Mobile Phone Company Lonestar belonged to Mr. Taylor. The prosecution witness, who testified that Mr. Taylor provided support to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone, also said that he had been in personal communication with Mr. Taylor through the said mobile phone number.
In rebuttal, Mrs. Aleatha Korto Hoff, a Liberian businesswoman testifying as Mr. Taylor’s 16th witness, has told the court that the mobile phone number that the witness said belonged to Mr. Taylor actually belongs to her. Mrs. Hoff in her testimony said that when the Mobile Company Lonestar was launched in Liberia in 2001, she got her phone from her brother as part of the first set of phones that were distributed by the company. She said that she has maintained the same number since 2001. The witness explained that things took a twist when she realised that a prosecution witness had told judges in The Hague that her number belonged to Mr. Taylor.
Asked to tell the court when was the first time she received a call asking to speak to Mr. Taylor, the witness said that “it was on a Saturday when I was catering, when the first two or I think three calls came, saying that there was a trial going on, somebody said that that number was Charles Taylor’s number.”
“It was that time that I started receiving calls, and about six, eight months after that time, there was a foreign call, 1:30 that night, when somebody called and said “may I speak to Mr. Taylor,” I said this is not Mr. Taylor, he is in The Hague, and please don’t wake me up because you know where Mr. Taylor is,” Mrs. Hoff explained.
Under cross-examination, prosecutors, trying to establish bias in the witness’s account, asked her about her relatives who were close associates of Mr. Taylor. Prosecution counsel Mr. Nicholas Koumjian pointed out that the witness’s brother, Jenkins Dunbar, was a minister in Mr. Taylor’s government, her niece Bell Dunbar was the Director of the Liberian Petroleum Refinery Cooperation. Mr. Koumjian pointed out that the names of the two persons mentioned as the witness’s relatives were put on a United Nations Security Council Travel Ban list in 2005.
“You are a close supporter of Charles Taylor, right?” Mr. Koumjian put to the witness.
In her response, the witness said that “I’ve never been involved in government business. I am a private business woman.”
Mrs. Hoff also in her testimony told the court that on November 15, 2009, her phone was stolen. However, on the same day, she had gone to the Lonestar office and replaced the same number that she had used since 2001. Using a 2009 calendar, Mr. Koumjian pointed out that November 15 was on a Sunday, and the Lonestar office could not have been open.
Under re-direct examination, Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel Morris Anyah asked the witness whether she ever lost her phone between 2001 to 2003 during which time Mr. Taylor was in Liberia. The witness said “no.”
Mr. Anyah also asked the witness whether she had been insincere or untruthful in her testimony because her family members were part of Mr. Taylor’s government.
“The fact that your late brother acted as Minister in Mr. Taylor’s government, has that affected the sincerity or truthfulness of what you have told this court?” Mr. Anyah asked the witness.
“No,” the witness responded.
As Mrs. Hoff concluded her testimony, prosecutors indicated that they will be prepared to commence the cross-examination of defense witness DCT-190, whose cross-examination was put on hold yesterday.