Witness in Charles Taylor war crimes trial denies lying to pursue suit against Naomi Campbell

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ex-agent: Naomi Campbell knew gift was diamonds

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands — Naomi Campbell’s former agent fended off defense accusations Tuesday that she lied to the war crimes court to further her own lawsuit against Campbell, insisting the model knew she was receiving diamonds from Charles Taylor.

Taylor, the former Liberian president, faces 11 counts of war crimes linked to allegations he supported rebels during Sierra Leone’s vicious 11-year civil war, which ended in 2002 with an estimated 100,000 dead. Prosecutors accuse him of trading in so-called blood diamonds — gems used to finance wars — in exchange for supporting the rebels. Taylor denies the charges.

Agent Carole White said she was present when Campbell told Jeremy Ractliffe, head of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, that the diamonds she was donating to the charity came from Taylor.

Campbell testified last week she did not know the source or value of the “stones” she received after a 1997 dinner party at Mandela’s presidential mansion. She told the court that two men came to her room in the middle of the night and said merely it was “a gift for you.” The British supermodel said she did not even know they were diamonds.

Taylor’s lawyer Courtenay Griffiths accused White of lying to assist her in a separate case against her former client, whom she is suing for millions of dollars for alleged breach of contract.

“I suggest that your account is a complete pack of lies, and you’ve made it up in order to assist in your lawsuit against Ms. Campbell,” Griffiths said Tuesday. “Put bluntly, for you this is all about money.”

White told the court her account was true, and that she had told the same story to friends in 1997 because “it was funny at the time.”

“It’s totally the truth. It has nothing to do with my business argument with Naomi Campbell,” White said. “This is not about money.”

On Monday, American actress and human rights activist Mia Farrow also told the court that Campbell had told her the day after the 1997 dinner that she received “a huge diamond” from Taylor.

The statutes of the Sierra Leone war crimes court make no reference to perjury and specify no penalties for it.

The appearance of Campbell and Farrow brought intense media interest to a case mired in tales of murders, atrocities and cannibalism in West Africa.

The three judges of the Special Court for Sierra Leone order Griffiths to wind up Taylor’s defense by Nov. 12, ending the trial just short of three years after it began in earnest. Taylor himself was on the stand for nearly seven months.

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