Supermodel Naomi Campbell testified today before the Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague about allegations that she received a gift of blood diamonds from former Liberian President Charles Taylor while they were both present in South Africa in 1997.
Ms. Campbell, who appeared before the court after being subpoenaed by the judges, testified that she was in her room sleeping after attending a star-studded dinner that was hosted by Nelson Mandela when two men knocked on her door and gave her a pouch saying, “a gift for you.”
“When I was sleeping, I had a knock on my door, I opened and two men gave me a pouch and said, ‘a gift for you’,” Ms. Campbell told the court today.
Ms. Campbell said that she did not know the men, they did not introduce themselves to her, and they did not say who they were.
“I was not sure who they were. When they gave me the pouch, I just put it next to my bed, and I went back to bed,” Ms. Campbell said.
When asked why she did not ask the men who had sent them to deliver the gift, Ms. Campbell said, “I was sleeping, I had travelled for many hours, and I was exhausted.”
“The next morning, I opened the pouch…I saw a few stones in there, and they were very small, dirty-looking stones,” she added.
Ms. Campbell said that at breakfast, she explained the incident to her friends, Hollywood actress Mia Farrow and Ms. Campbell’s former agent Carole White, both of whom are scheduled to testify about the same incident on Monday. When one of these two persons suggested that the diamonds must have been from Mr. Taylor, Ms. Campbell said she also thought the former Liberian president had sent her the gift.
“The next morning, I told Ms. Farrow and Ms. White, and they said it must be Mr. Taylor, and I said I thought [that it] was,” Ms. Campbell testified.
Ms. Campbell said she cannot remember who between Ms. Farrow and Ms. White told her that the diamonds must have been from Mr. Taylor.
Ms. Campbell said she did not want to keep the diamonds, so she handed them over to her friend, Mr. Jeremy Ratcliffe, the former head of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in South Africa. When prosecutors contacted her lawyers last year about the incident that took place in South Africa in 1997, Ms. Campbell contacted Mr. Ratcliffe who informed her that she still has the diamonds in his possession.
Ms. Campbell explained that Mr. Taylor showed up at the dinner that was hosted at Mr. Mandela’s house and introduced himself as president of Liberia. That was the first time she met Mr. Taylor and was the first time she heard about the country Liberia, she said.
“I never knew Mr. Taylor before, and I had never heard of Liberia before, never heard the term blood diamonds,” she said.
She said she has had no contact with Mr. Taylor since then. While telling the court that she just wants the whole process done with so she can move on with her life, Ms. Campbell added that she has read about Mr. Taylor killing several hundreds of people.
“I didn’t want to be here, I was made to be here,” she said. “I just want to get done with this and get on with my life.”
“This is someone I read on the internet that killed several hundreds of people, supposedly,” she added.
Under cross-examination by Mr. Taylor’s lead defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, Ms. Campbell told the court that Ms. Farrow and Ms. White gave the wrong accounts of the incident in statements they made to prosecutors.
Ms. Campbell said that Ms. White lied when she made a statement that she (White) was present when the men arrived with the diamonds to give to Ms. Campbell. In Ms. White’s statement, she said that she was the one who opened the door for the two men and offered them bottles of coke before they offered the diamonds to Ms. Campbell in a piece of paper.
“I didn’t see Carole White, I saw the two men, she might have been around the corner but I did not see her,” Ms. Campbell said.
“This is a woman that has a powerful motive to lie about you,” Mr. Griffiths asked Ms. Campbell.
“I trusted her, but I no longer trust her and no longer work with her,” Ms. Campbell responded.
Ms. Campbell admitted that Ms. White has filed a lawsuit against her for breach of contract, a lawsuit that she said she did not want to discuss in this court.
When asked whether Ms. White was present when she handed the diamonds to Mr. Ratcliffe, Ms. Campbell said, “I don’t recall that she was but she could have been, that’s 13 years ago.”
Mr. Griffiths also asked Ms. Campbell whether it was mere speculation that her friends made when they said that the diamonds were from Mr. Taylor.
“I just assumed that they were. I can’t speak on behalf of them [Farrow and White] but when it was brought, I just believed that it was,” she said.
As lead prosecutor, Ms. Brenda Hollis re-examined Ms. Campbell, the prosecutor referenced the supermodel’s appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show in United States where she said that for the safety of her family, she did not wish to be associated with Mr. Taylor’s case. In an attempt to impeach the witness, Ms. Hollis pointed out that she was being dishonest with the court because she feared Mr. Taylor.
“Isn’t it correct that your account today is not entirely correct because of your fear of Charles Taylor?”
Defense lawyers objected on the basis that the prosecutor was trying to impeach her own witness. The judges upheld the defense objection.
“It is incorrect to impeach your own witness,” Presiding Judge Justice Julia Sebutinde told Ms. Hollis.
In an exchange that showed a disagreement between the Presiding Judge and Ms. Hollis as to what category of witness Ms. Campbell is, Ms. Hollis told the court, “For all practical purposes, this witness is not a prosecution witness.”
Justice Sebutinde responded, “Ms. Campbell is not a court witness, she was subpoenaed by the court on request by prosecution.”
Ms. Hollis conceded.
As Ms. Campbell concluded her testimony and walked out of the court, the court took an adjournment. Later, court resumed with the continuation of the evidence of Issa Hassan Sesay, the convicted former interim leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group, which Mr. Taylor is accused of receiving blood diamonds from.
Mr. Sesay’s testimony continues on Friday.