The last of three high profile witnesses, Ms. Carole White, the former agent for supermodel Naomi Campbell, concluded her testimony today, insisting before the Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague that she has not lied about former Liberian president Charles Taylor sending men to deliver rough diamonds to Ms. Campbell while they were all in South Africa in 1997.
“I have known this story since 1997 and it’s, you know, quite an amazing story…however, when I was told by my lawyer that Charles Taylor had been in The Hague in a war crimes trial, I realized it was very serious and the blood diamond issue had a big bearing on the case and it was my duty to tell my story, it happened 13 years ago, I haven’t lied and it is a true story,” Ms. White told the court.
Ms. White’s testimony, which ran into a second day, focused on her account of how Mr. Taylor allegedly sent men to deliver rough diamonds to Ms. Campbell after they had all attended a star-studded dinner that was hosted by Nelson Mandela. While Ms. Campbell in her testimony admitted that she did receive a gift containing rough diamonds from two men in the middle of the night, she denied knowledge that such men had been sent by Mr. Taylor. Ms. Campbell’s testimony was followed by that of Hollywood actress Mia Farrow, who told the court that it was Ms. Campbell who had told her at breakfast that Mr. Taylor had sent men to give her “a huge diamond.” When Ms. White took the witness stand, she told the court that she was present when Mr. Taylor and Ms. Campbell made arrangements for the diamonds to be delivered to Ms. Campbell and that she was also present with Ms. Campbell when the men arrived with the diamonds at night.
As defense lawyer for Mr. Taylor, Courtenay Griffiths, cross-examined Ms. White, he questioned Ms. White’s account that while at the dinner table with Mr. Mandela and his guests, Mr. Taylor and Ms. Campbell had been “mildly flirting” with each other.
“This flirtation between Mr. Taylor and Naomi Campbell is a figment of your imagination. You’ve made that up,” Mr. Griffiths put to Ms. White.
In her response, Ms. White said, “I haven’t made it up.”
Mr. Griffiths also read portions of Ms. White’s statement that was made to prosecutors prior to her testimony in court. According to Mr. Griffiths, there were several inconsistencies between Ms. White’s written statement and that of her oral testimony and that Ms. White had embellished her account with several lies.
“I suggest you’ve embellished this account with a number of blatant lies,” Mr. Griffiths said.
The witness denied Mr. Griffith’s assertion.
Mr. Griffiths also pointed out that in her written statement to prosecutors, Ms. White had stated that she “heard Mr. Taylor tell Ms. Campbell that he was going to send her diamonds.”
When asked whether she indeed heard Mr. Taylor say so, Ms. White told the court that it was Ms. Campbell who said so. When Mr. Taylor overheard Ms. Campbell, the former president nodded in agreement.
“When Naomi Campbell leaned back to tell me that Mr. Taylor was going to send her diamonds…he [Taylor] was definitely acquiescing,” Ms. White said.
“He [Taylor] nodded that he was going to send her diamonds. I didn’t hear the words..I don’t recall..he was nodding in agreement,” she added.
Ms. White in her testimony also said that while they were in their guest house waiting for the men to deliver the diamonds from Mr. Taylor, Ms. Campbell was in constant communication with the former president. She, however, said that she could not remember whether they were in contact by phone or by text.
Mr. Griffiths informed the court that neither Mr. Taylor, nor any member of his entourage carried mobile phones in South Africa in 1997. One of the judges of the Trial Chamber, Justice Richard Lussick, pointed out that while there was no evidence to support such an assertion, it should be noted as a suggestion rather than a fact.
Mr. Griffiths also questioned Ms. White’s account that when the two men arrived with the diamonds inside Mr. Mandela’s presidential compound, they threw pebbles at her own window, and it was then that she informed Ms. Campbell that the men had arrived.
“How did the men know which window to throw pebbles at?” Mr. Griffiths asked Ms. White.
“I don’t know…they threw pebbles at my window…maybe it was a lucky guess,” Ms. White responded.
When asked whether the men told her that they had been sent by Mr. Taylor, the witness responded, “Not that I recall.”
She, however, added that when Ms. Campbell gave the diamonds to Jeremy Ratcliffe, former head of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the following morning, she heard Ms. Campbell telling Mr. Ratcliffe that the diamonds came from Mr. Taylor.
Ms. White also told the court that the diamonds were delivered in a scruffy piece of paper and that it was Ms. Campbell who put them in a pouch the following morning.
As Ms. White concluded her testimony, the court resumed normal business with a continuation of the testimony of Issa Hassan Sesay, the former interim leader of the Revolutionary United Front, the rebel group that Mr. Taylor is accused of providing support to.
Mr. Sesay’s testimony continues tomorrow.