Naomi Campbell admits receiving diamonds gift

August 5, 2010 12:00 am

, THE HAGUE, Aug  5 – Supermodel Naomi Campbell told a court Thursday how she received a pouch of rough diamonds as a late-night gift she assumed came from Liberia\’s ex-president Charles Taylor, in the dock for war crimes.

Demurely but stylishly dressed, the catwalk queen told judges it was a "big inconvenience" for her to have come to The Hague to testify about a bag of "dirty-looking pebbles" in Taylor\’s trial for murder, rape and enslavement.

"I really didn\’t want to be here," she said. "Obviously I just want to get this over with and get on with my life."

Campbell said she was woken by a knock on her bedroom door at a guesthouse after meeting Taylor at a celebrity dinner hosted by then South African president Nelson Mandela in September 1997, and handed a pouch with "stones" that she gave to charity the next day.

"I saw a few stones in there. Very small, dirty-looking stones … maybe three, two or three," Campbell, 40, said of the gift delivered by two black men she did not know.

At breakfast the next morning, she told her then agent Carole White and actress Mia Farrow about the gift, both of whom assumed the stones were diamonds.

"One of the two said \’that is obviously Charles Taylor\’ and I said \’yes I guess it was\’," she told the court, adding she never saw the Liberian ex-president again and never confronted him about the gift.

Taylor, 62, is standing trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the 1991-2001 Sierra Leone civil war that claimed some 120,000 lives.

He is accused of receiving illegally mined "blood diamonds" in return for arming rebels who murdered, raped and maimed Sierra Leone civilians, cutting off their limbs and carving initials into their bodies.

Prosecutors have called Campbell to the stand in a bid to cast doubt on Taylor\’s credibility and to try to disprove his claim that he never possessed rough diamonds.

She told the court she had not wanted to put her family in danger after reading on the Internet of "this man who killed thousands of people, supposedly."

The feisty model, dressed in a classical, beige two-piece with a knee-length skirt, wore her straightened hair swept back in a smart bun with a sparkling, choker necklace.

She told judges she gave the stones to a friend, Jeremy Ratcliffe, who worked for the Nelson Mandela Children\’s Fund to "do something good with".

"I didn\’t want to keep them," she said. "I wanted them to go to the charity."

But the model claimed she spoke to Ratcliffe last year, "and he still has them (the diamonds)".

The charity has denied ever having received such a contribution from Campbell.

The British beauty told the court she was used to receiving gifts from strangers.

"I get gifts given to me all the time, at all hours of the night," she said. "It is quite normal for me to receive gifts."

She claimed she was "not a diamond expert" and would not have immediately guessed that the contents of the pouch were in fact diamonds.

"I am used to seeing diamonds shiny and in a box, you know."

She insisted she didn\’t know who they came from.

The prosecution alleges the diamonds were part of a batch that Taylor took to South Africa "to sell… or exchange them for weapons."

Campbell was subpoenaed for her testimony on the basis of statements from White and Farrow — both due to testify on Monday.

But Taylor\’s lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, said the evidence was "pure speculation" and suggested it arose from a lawsuit White had brought against Campbell for breach of contract.

The prosecution\’s decision to call Campbell to the stand "blew up spectacularly in their faces," Griffiths told journalists after the model failed to link Taylor to any diamonds.

After a lull in media interest in Taylor\’s three-year old trial, dozens of journalists from around the world descended on The Hague for Campbell\’s  testimony.

The model arrived and departed in secrecy, though, in line with a court order she had obtained that prevented her being photographed.


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