Naomi Campbell testified before the war crimes tribunal on Thursday, confirming that she had received some “dirty—looking stones” after a dinner with former Liberian ruler Charles Taylor but stopping short of saying they were diamonds or that she was given the gift by Mr. Taylor himself.
Ms. Campbell was being questioned in the Taylor’s war crimes trial about claims made by actress Mia Farrow that Mr. Taylor gave the model an uncut diamond or diamonds after a dinner party hosted by Nelson Mandela that they all attended in South Africa in 1997.
Prosecutors say, if true, the story would provide evidence that Mr. Taylor traded guns to neighbouring Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for uncut diamonds, sometimes known as “blood diamonds” during that country’s 1992—2002 civil war.
The British model said on the stand Thursday she was awakened in the middle of the night after the September 1997 dinner party by two black men at her door. She said they offered her a pouch they said was a gift for her with no further explanation.
She said she frequently receives gifts from admirers and didn’t look at it until the following morning.
“I saw a few stones in there. And they were small dirty—looking stones,” she said.
She said, at breakfast the following day, either Ms. Farrow or Ms. Campbell’s former agent Carole White had told her the rocks must be diamonds and were probably a gift from Mr. Taylor. Ms. Campbell said she then gave them to a friend, Jeremy Ratcliffe, who at the time was the director of Mandela’s children’s charity.
In a demure cream two-piece outfit
The supermodel, who had fought hard to avoid testifying, arrived at the courthouse in Leidschendam surrounded by a police escort. In contrast to her usual edgy fashion style, she wore a demure cream two—piece outfit and her hair was piled up into a classic chignon.
Entering the courtroom fashionably late, several minutes after she was first summoned to take the stand, Ms. Campbell was calm and composed as she quickly answered questions from prosecutor Brenda Hollis.
“I didn’t really want to be here,” she said. “I just want to get this over with and get on with my life.”
Prosecutors say from his seat of power in Liberia, Mr. Taylor armed, trained and commanded Sierra Leone rebels who murdered and mutilated thousands of civilians across the border. Mr. Taylor says he is innocent of the 11 war crimes charges he faces, including murder, rape, sexual enslavement and recruiting child soldiers.
Carole White's suggestion
Defense attorney Courtenay Griffiths got Ms. Campbell to testify that alternate versions of the event given to prosecutors by Ms. Farrow and Ms. White were wrong. He said Ms. White has suggested Ms. Campbell was seated next to Mr. Taylor at the dinner and flirted with him.
White is enmeshed in a legal dispute with Ms. Campbell.
“This is a woman who has a power motive to lie about you?” Mr. Courtenay asked.
“Correct,” Ms. Campbell answered, with a slight smile. She said she sat between Mr. Mandela, who she idolized, and music producer Quincy Jones.
Ms. Campbell had declined to cooperate with prosecutors until judges last month ordered her to appear or face a maximum sentence of seven years for contempt.
Hollis, the prosecutor, asked why Ms. Campbell had been so reluctant to appear before the war crimes tribunal.
“This is someone that I read up on the Internet that killed thousands of people supposedly and I don’t want my family in any danger in any way,” Ms. Campbell said.
Mr. Griffiths angrily objected that was “totally irrelevant” to her testimony.
No stranger to courtrooms
The hot—tempered Ms. Campbell, 40, is no stranger to courtrooms, having faced a series of minor lawsuits and criminal cases over the years.
In June 2008 she pleaded guilty in an incident where she cursed, kicked and spat at police at London’s Heathrow airport in a rage over a missing piece of luggage. She was sentenced to 200 hours of community service for that.
Ms. Campbell also did a week of community service sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets in a Manhattan garbage—truck garage in 2007 after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault for hurling a cell phone at her maid because of a vanished pair of jeans.
In 2000, Ms. Campbell pleaded guilty in Toronto to an assault charge for beating an assistant who said the model whacked her on the head with a phone.
A few of Ms. Campbell’s former aides and maids have sued her, accusing her of violent outbursts; some cases have been settled on undisclosed terms.
Ms. Campbell became one of the world’s highest—paid models after being discovered while shopping in London at age 15.