Campbell agent denies lying over Taylor diamonds ‘gift’
The former agent of supermodel Naomi Campbell has denied lying in her testimony at the war crimes trial of ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor.
Under cross examination, Carole White repeated allegations that Ms Campbell received diamonds from Mr Taylor after a dinner in South Africa in 1997.
Defence counsel Courtenay Griffiths called her account “a complete pack of lies” made up to assist a lawsuit over breach of contract with Ms Campbell.
“It’s not a lie,” Ms White said.
The former agent is suing Ms Campbell for breach of contract, claiming that the model owes her about $600,000 (£375,000) in lost earnings over the past two years.
“Put bluntly,” said Mr Griffiths, “For you this is all about money, there ain’t nothing funny.”
Ms White responded by saying: “I can categorically tell you, this happened. I told people about it after the journey, people that I trusted. It was quite funny at the time. It’s not so funny now.”
“It has nothing whatsoever to do with my business argument with Naomi Campbell,” Ms White added. “This is not about money. This is about a very serious matter and I am telling the truth.”
Ms Campbell has defended her evidence, saying she had nothing to gain from not telling the truth.
Mr Taylor is standing trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, sitting in The Hague.
He faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, all of which he denies, over his alleged role in the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, where he is accused of backing rebels responsible for widespread atrocities.
Mr Taylor is accused of selling diamonds and buying weapons for Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front rebels, who were notorious for hacking off the hands and legs of civilians.
Tens of thousands of people died in interlinked conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 1980s and 1990s.
Prosecutors are trying to link the former Liberian leader to the diamonds that Ms Campbell received. He has denied having anything to do with the trade in so-called blood diamonds.
On Monday, Carole White told the court that during a dinner with Nelson Mandela, Mr Taylor told Ms Campbell he would send some men to her guest house to give her diamonds.
Afterwards, she said Ms Campbell was communicating with the men by text and was “very excited” about the diamonds arrival.
Her account contradicted Ms Campbell, who last week testified that she had received the diamonds unexpectedly and did not know who they were from.
During cross examination, Mr Griffiths queried Ms White’s recollection of the dinner and the events afterwards at the guest house.
The defence lawyer repeatedly asked Ms White how she could be sure that the diamonds were gifts from Mr Taylor.
Ms White told the court she did not hear Mr Taylor directly offering Ms Campbell diamonds at the dinner table.
Instead, she said that Mr Taylor “nodded to Naomi” in agreement when she said “he’s going to give me diamonds”.
Mr Griffiths then asked Ms White why she thought that two men who came to her guest house to give Miss Campbell a pouch of rough diamonds were sent by Mr Taylor.
“When the men arrived you say they threw pebbles at your window and you looked out. Did the men say they had come from Charles Taylor?” asked Mr Griffiths.
“Not that I recall. They said they had a gift for Miss Campbell,” replied Ms White.
“So you assumed they were from Charles Taylor?” said Mr Griffths.
“Yes,” said Ms White.
Last week, Ms Campbell told the court that two unidentified men had come to her room in the middle of the night and given her a pouch of stones.
She said: “At breakfast I told [actress] Mia Farrow and Miss White what had happened and one of the two said, well that’s obviously Charles Taylor, and I said, yes I guess it was.”
But in court today Ms White said she had “no recollection of having breakfast with Mia Farrow”.
“Do you recall having breakfast with Naomi Campbell?” asked the presiding judge, Julia Sebutinde.
“I don’t recall breakfast at all,” Ms White replied.
Mr Taylor, 62, was arrested in 2006 and his trial in opened in 2007.
The former warlord is accused of arming Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels during the 1991-2002 civil war – a charge he denies.
Prosecutors say that from his seat of power in Liberia, Mr Taylor also trained and commanded the rebels who murdered, raped and maimed Sierra Leone civilians, frequently hacking off their hands and legs.
Mr Taylor’s trial gained little international media coverage until the appearance of Ms Campbell.