05/08/2010 05:01:05
Naomi, the warlord and the blood diamond gift
THE plot could have come straight from a John le Carre novel — with a cast including a former warlord, a supermodel, an actress and a bag full of blood diamonds.
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Prosecutors at the Hague trying former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes — including murder, rape and conscripting child soldiers — believe Naomi Campbell holds vital evidence.

The story begins in South Africa in 1997 when the model was among a number of guests at a star-studded charity party hosted by Nelson Mandela. Also in attendance were Taylor and actress Mia Farrow.

In a written statement to the court, Farrow said: "The next morning when the other guests, my children and I met for breakfast, Naomi Campbell was there and had an unforgettable story.

"She told us she had been awakened in the night by knocking at her door. She opened the door to find two or three men who presented her with a large diamond which they said was from Charles Taylor."

Farrow’s account was backed up by Campbell’s former agent Carole White, who said she was present when the uncut diamonds were delivered.

The prosecutors say Taylor’s alleged possession of rough diamonds is a "central issue" in the case against him, and supports allegations he was carrying the stones to sell or exchange for weapons for use in the civil war in Sierra Leone.

But Campbell has been unwilling to discuss the story, and unwilling to appear in court.

"I didn’t receive a diamond and I’m not going to speak about that, thank you very much," she told an journalist from ABC News earlier this year, before lashing out at a camera as she stormed out of the interview.

Later she explained to talk show host Oprah Winfrey: "I don’t want to be involved in this man’s case — he has done some terrible things and I don’t want to put my family in danger."

Prosecutors say they made repeated efforts to interview the model but after "consistent refusals" to speak they were eventually forced to issue a subpoena, compelling her to attend court.

If she does not comply with the subpoena she could be convicted for contempt of court, carrying a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.

Campbell retained the services of Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who last week filed a motion for "protective measures". Such measures are usually reserved for witnesses at risk of revenge attacks.

The court ruled that "no person shall photograph, or video record Ms Campbell while entering the tribunal building, exiting from the tribunal building, or while she is in the tribunal building, without leave of the trial chamber or Ms Campbell".

A request that such restrictions be extended within Holland was turned down on the grounds it was outside the court’s jurisdiction. In a further twist, Taylor’s defence team sought to postpone Campbell’s evidence.

Courtenay Griffiths QC, defending, said the prosecution had disclosed too little information about Campbell’s proposed testimony for a cross-examination to be prepared.

He said it therefore violated Taylor’s right to a fair trial. The prosecution say Campbell’s evidence will corroborate the belief Taylor received diamonds from Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front rebels, which he used to buy weapons.

But Mr Griffiths pointed out that Campbell has publicly denied this, meaning either the prosecution was withholding evidence or it was calling Campbell to testify "entirely based on conjecture".

Four judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone are trying Taylor on charges that he armed and controlled a rebel force responsible for widespread atrocities. The rebels were notorious for hacking off hands and arms of civilians during the decade-long war in which more than a100,000 people were killed.

Taylor is accused of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has denied the charges.

The 62-year-old has told the court he never carried, owned, sold or traded diamonds for weapons.

He described Farrow’s story as "totally incorrect".

Farrow and White are due to give evidence on August 9.

Taylor was elected president of Liberia in 1997 but was forced to step down six years later and went into exile in Nigeria.

CAMPBELL profile

NAOMI Campbell’s controversial career is due to take her from the catwalk to the courtroom — and not for the first time.

The 40-year-old was issued with a subpoena forcing her to appear at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Hague. She is due to give evidence in the case against former warlord Charles Taylor, who reportedly gave her a rough diamond.

Her publicity team were keen to point out the model herself is not on trial, but it is not the first time she has made an unwilling appearance in court.

In 2000 in Toronto, Canada, Campbell pleaded guilty to an assault charge after beating an assistant on the head with a mobile phone.

In 2007 she spent five days mopping floors and scrubbing toilets after she was given a community service sentence in New York for throwing a mobile phone at her housekeeper during an argument over a pair of jeans. She was also ordered to attend anger management classes.

And in 2008 she was ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service for kicking and spitting at police officers after going "berserk" on an aircraft.

The model screamed foul-mouthed abuse at the captain of a British Airways flight waiting to take off from Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 when one of her bags went missing.

In March this year she was facing another assault charge after being accused of hitting her driver in New York. But the driver later dropped the matter, saying it had been "blown out of proportion".

Being questioned over Taylor’s alleged gift has also sparked her anger.

Asked about the diamond by ABC News earlier this year, Campbell stormed out of the interview and lashed out at a camera.

She later told Oprah Winfrey a sound effect was added to the footage to make it more dramatic — a claim ABC vigorously denied.

She also told the talk show host she was ashamed of her violent outbursts, saying: "I take responsibility for the things that I have done and I do feel a great sense of shame."

And she spoke of her battle against cocaine addiction, a habit she managed to kick more than six years ago. Campbell said her anger was down to "an abandonment issue" stemming from childhood.

She never met her father, and her mother, a ballerina, left her behind to travel the world.

Campbell was just 15 years old when she was discovered by an Elite talent scout during a shopping trip to London’s Covent Garden. She became one of the original supermodels, alongside the likes of Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista.

She was also the first black model to grace the cover of Vogue magazine.

She appeared in music videos with Michael Jackson and George Michael and was romantically linked to celebrities, such as actor Robert De Niro, boxer Mike Tyson and musician Usher.

Campbell is now living in Moscow with Russian real estate mogul Vladislav Doronin, who she met at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008.

TAYLOR profile

CHARLES Taylor is a former warlord with a reputation as a flamboyant showman.

He was once asked in a BBC interview why some people thought he was little better than a murderer.

"Jesus Christ was accused of being a murderer in his time," he replied.

In 1980 Taylor joined the regime of Master Sergeant Samuel Doe in Liberia, but the two men fell out and he fled back to the US, where he had studied. He apparently escaped from a prison in Massachusetts by sawing through the bars, and returned to Liberia to wage war on Doe.

Prosecutors at the Hague say he allied with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group in neighbouring Sierra Leone. The RUF were responsible for widespread atrocities during Sierra Leone’s civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002.

The rebel soldiers, including children, were notorious for hacking off hands and limbs. Prosecutors say the RUF paid Taylor using "blood diamonds" from mines under their control, and he paid them back with guns and weapons.

After winning power in Liberia militarily, he won elections in 1997 and became president. But after yet more bloodshed he was forced to step down in 2003 and fled to Nigeria. He was arrested three years later on the Nigeria-Cameroon border in a disguised diplomatic car which was allegedly full of cash.

Taylor, 62, now denies 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and conscripting child soldiers.

Naomi Campbell was issued with a subpoena to attend court after actress Mia Farrow and the model’s former agent, Carole White, said she received a rough diamond from Taylor after a charity party hosted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1997.

The prosecutors say Taylor’s alleged possession of rough diamonds is a "central issue" and supports allegations he was carrying the diamonds to sell for weapons for the RUF. Taylor told the court he never carried, owned, sold or traded diamonds for weapons.

He described Farrow’s story as "totally incorrect".

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