British supermodel Naomi Campbell admitted to receiving a pouch of “very small, dirty looking stones” Thursday (Aug 5) as a gift from Charles Taylor as she testified at the Liberian leader’s war crime trial in The Netherlands.
Campbell says she received the “gift” in 1997 following an exclusive dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela and attended by Taylor, Campbell, Mia Farrow and other celebrities and public figures. She maintained her innocence by denying that she knew that she received blood diamonds after two men knocked on her door late one night and handed her a small bag. She said:
“When I was sleeping, I had a knock on my door. I opened the door and two men were there. They gave me a pouch and said, ‘A gift for you.'”
The men didn’t introduce themselves or say anything else, Campbell said. The next morning, she opened the pouch and saw a few “very small, dirty-looking stones.” She gave them to a friend to auction for charity, she testified.
Campbell shared the story of receiving the stones with White and Farrow at breakfast, she testified Thursday. “Well, that’s obviously Charles Taylor,” one of them said. Campbell didn’t recall who said it. Then, one of them added, “Well, obviously, they are diamonds.” Campbell said she assumed the stones came from Taylor.
Campbell said she didn’t keep the stones. Instead, she passed them on to a friend, Jeremy Ratcliffe, she said, and asked him to use the stones in a charity auction to raise money for underprivileged children. Ratcliffe is a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, which denied hours after Campbell’s testimony that it had ever received diamonds from her. “I can categorically state that the NMCF has never received a donation of a diamond or diamonds from Ms. Campbell or anyone else,” the fund’s chief executive, Sibongile Mkhabela, said in a letter to the court Thursday. “It would have been improper and illegal to have done so,” she wrote.
Campbell said on the stand she believed Ratcliffe still had the diamonds. Prosecutors, who say that Farrow confirmed that Taylor gave Campbell a diamond, also want to call the actress and White to testify, court papers show. When arguing to reopen the case, prosecutors said Campbell’s testimony would prove that the former president “used rough diamonds for personal enrichment and arms purchases,” according to papers filed with the U.N.-backed court.
Taylor, 62, was president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003. The war crimes charges against him stem from the widespread murder, rape and mutilation that occurred during the civil war in Sierra Leone, fought largely by teenagers who were forced to kill, given addictive drugs to provoke violent behavior, and often instructed to rape and plunder.
Taylor is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, sexual slavery and violence, and enslavement. He also faces five counts of war crimes, including acts of terrorism and torture, and one count of other serious violations of international humanitarian law.
He has pleaded not guilty.