Liberia - Sierra Leone

Campbell received 'dirty stones' - but knew nothing about blood diamonds

Reuters

British supermodel Naomi Campbell has admitted receiving a gift of "dirty-looking stones" after a 1997 banquet in South Africa, in her testimony before an international criminal tribunal seeking to link the alleged blood diamonds to former Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor. Campbell denied knowing who sent her the stones, as she appeared before the war crimes court in The Hague on Thursday.

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The model was questioned over allegations that Taylor gave her diamonds after a charity dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela.

Taylor is accused of trading in illegally mined stones to fund civil war in Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002. He denies the charges.

Campbell told the court that two men brought the "small, dirty-looking stones" to the guest room where she was staying in Mandela's house.

These men described the uncut diamonds simply as "a gift for you", and did not explain who they were or who had sent them, she said.

It was not until the following morning, when Campbell discussed the present with her former agent Carole White and actress Mia Farrow, that it occurred to her the stones were likely to have come from Taylor, she claims.

"One of the two said, 'That's obviously Charles Taylor', and I said, 'I guess that was'."

Campbell says she did not immediately recognise the stones as diamonds, nor was she aware of the laws regulating unprocessed stones.

She gave the diamonds to a representative from the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund in the hope that they would help the charity. The organisation says it never accepted any such donation.

Campbell's testimony contradicts statements by other witnesses, including White and Farrow.

White claims that Taylor and Campbell sat together at the dinner and that the former warlord stated his intention to send the model diamonds, while Farrow alleges that Campbell told her the gift came from him. Both witnesses will appear in court next Monday.

The court learned that Campbell had never heard of blood diamonds, Charles Taylor or even Liberia before the fateful dinner party.

Taylor is facing 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly funding and training Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels who murdered, raped and mutilated civilians in Sierra Leone, and conscripted thousands of child soldiers.

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