By Alpha Sesay,The Hague
Two prosecution witnesses, who were called to testify about allegations that Charles Taylor gave rough diamonds to supermodel Naomi Campbell during a visit to South Africa in 1997, have today contradicted the account given by the supermodel in her testimony last week before the Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague.
When prosecutors decided to reopen their case against Mr. Taylor, they submitted the names of three witnesses – Ms. Campbell, Ms. Farrow, and Ms. White – to testify about the allegations surrounding the receipt of diamonds from men believed to have been sent by Mr. Taylor after the former Liberian president and all three ladies had attended a star-studded dinner that was hosted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1997.
Last week, Ms. Campbell testified about the events, telling the court that after the September 1997 dinner, she was sleeping when two men woke her up and gave her a pouch with only the words “a gift for you.” When she opened the pouch the next morning, it contained “dirty-looking stones” and upon sharing the information with Ms. Farrow and Ms. White, one of them suggested that the diamonds must have come from Mr. Taylor. Today, Ms. Farrow and Ms. White took the witness stand to testify about the same incident.
First to testify today was Ms. Farrow, who contradicted Ms. Campbell’s account about how Mr. Taylor became associated with the diamond gift. According to Ms. Farrow, it was Ms. Campbell who had informed her that Mr. Taylor sent men to deliver the diamonds to her. Ms. Campbell was excited, Ms. Farrow testified today.
“She [Ms. Campbell] said at night, some men had knocked at her door and there were two men that were sent by Charles Taylor and they had given her a huge diamond and that she was going to donate it to Mr. Mandela’s charity,” Ms. Farrow told the court.
“As I recall it, she was quite excited,” she added.
When asked by prosecutors whether Ms. Campbell had shown her the diamond, Ms. Farrow said, “No, she did not.”
When asked again a direct question as to whether she was the one who had told Ms. Campbell that the diamonds must have been from Mr. Taylor, Ms. Farrow said, “Absolutely not…Naomi Campbell said that diamonds were from Charles Taylor.”
Under cross-examination, defense lawyers tried to establish that Ms. Farrow had difficulty recollecting different things, that her testimony did not only contradict that of Ms. Campbell but also contradicts the statements made by Ms. White to prosecutors, and that as an activist involved in issues relating to Africa, such as Darfur, she had a motive of working against African leaders she perceived to be oppressing their people.
Defense counsel for Mr. Taylor, Morris Anyah, in cross-examining Ms. Farrow pointed out that while she was testifying that the gift given to Ms. Campbell was a “huge diamond,” Ms. Campbell herself who received the said gift had testified that there were “two to three small dirty-looking stones,” and that Ms. White in her statement to prosecutors had said there were about five pieces of diamonds.
In her response to these points, Ms. Farrow said, “I didn’t see the diamond or diamonds, I can only tell you what Naomi Campbell said.”
Mr. Anyah also read a BBC Africa news article that quoted Mr. Jeremy Ractcliffe, the former head of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund to whom Ms. Campbell had handed the diamonds, stating “three small uncut diamonds were given to me by Naomi Campbell.”
“Three persons referring to diamonds in the plural…they were small in size,” Mr. Anyah told Ms. Farrow.
“Do you stand by your recollection that what you heard Naomi Campbell say was that this was a huge size diamond?” Mr. Anyah asked Ms. Farrow.
“That is what I recall. The other persons saw the diamonds…I can only recall what Ms. Campbell said,” Ms. Farrow responded.
“What Naomi Campbell said that morning, to the best of my recollection, she said a large diamond,” she added.
Ms. Farrow insisted, “I swear to this Bible as I have, before this court and beyond that that is what Naomi Campbell told me. I stand by my recollection.”
Mr. Anyah also pointed out a prior statement made on ABC News in which Ms. Farrow had urged Ms. Campbell to cooperate with the Special Court on this particular issue with the words, “Step up and do your part. I am eager to see the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia see justice. They need that.”
Mr. Anyah also referenced Ms. Farrow’s personal blog where there are postings in which Ms. Farrow expresses personal views on the prosecution of African Heads of States who commit crimes against their own people.
As Ms. Farrow concluded her testimony, Ms. Campbell’s former agent Mr. White commenced her evidence during which she not only contradicted Ms. Campbell’s account, but also contradicted several portions of Ms. Farrow’s testimony.
According to Ms. White, while they were all having dinner at Mr. Mandela’s residence in September 1997, Mr. Taylor and Ms. Campbell “were being charming to each other…mildly flirting…they were just being affable.”
“Naomi I think was flirting with him [Taylor] and he was flirting back…they were enjoying each other’s company,” she said.
Ms. White told the court that during the said company between Mr. Taylor and Ms. Campbell, the supermodel informed her (White) with excitement that Mr. Taylor had promised to send her diamonds.
“Naomi was very excited and said ,’Oh he is going to give me some diamonds’,” Ms. White said.
Ms. White also explained how Mr. Taylor and Ms. Campbell discussed that two men would enter the guesthouse with the diamonds and hand them over to Ms. Campbell. At night, she said that herself and Ms. Campbell were anxiously waiting for the two men to show up with the diamonds, but when they waited longer than expected, they decided to go to bed.
According to Ms. White, when the men eventually arrived, she was the one who first woke up to receive them before she woke Ms. Campbell up.
“[I] heard some clinking noises on my window…I opened the window and there were two guys standing on the ground…’we [the two men] have something for Ms. Campbell’…and I told them to wait. I went to Ms. Campbell’s room and told her that the men were here,” she explained.
When the men came into the house, Ms. White said, “they took out a scruffy piece of paper and gave it to Ms. Campbell…she opened it and showed them to me. They were quite disappointing because they were not shiny.”
Contrary to Ms. Campbell’s testimony that there were three pieces of diamonds in the pouch and Ms. Farrow’s account that she had been informed of a “huge diamond,” Ms. White told the court that she believed there were five to six pieces of diamonds in the piece of paper.
Under cross-examination by lead counsel for Mr. Taylor, Courtenay Griffiths, he pointed out that Ms. White had a breach of contract lawsuit against Ms. Campbell and she wanted to use this story to destroy her (Ms. Campbell).
“You have a very powerful motive for lying about Ms. Campbell,” Mr. Griffiths put to Ms. White.
“I suggest…that you don’t come to this court with clean hands…your motive for lying…is to provide yourself with ammunition for use against her in the lawsuit,” Mr. Griffiths said.
Ms. White responded that this was not the case and that the issue of blood diamonds had nothing to do with a civil matter that she had to settle in court with Ms. Campbell.
Ms. White was also confronted with materials printed from the social networking site Facebook under the page of one Annie Wilshaw, who is an employee of Ms. White’s modeling agency. On this Facebook page, Ms. Wilshaw displayed photographs of a party that was hosted by Ms. White on the Thursday that Mr. Campbell testified and then titled the pictures “blood diamond night.” Subsequent comments which followed the photograph included “this is a big inconvenience for me” (a line stated by Ms. Campbell in her testimony). It was followed by “it will be when Carole arrives at The Hague and ruins your tale on Monday.”
Ms. White responded that the pictures were from a party to open a new modeling house, and she was not aware that her employees had made such comments about the event.
Ms. White’s testimony continues tomorrow.