By Bruno Waterfield and Andy Bloxham – Naomi Campbell, the model, admitted that she was given “dirty rocks” by the former Liberian ruler Charles Taylor as she gives evidence at his war crimes trial.
As the Charles Taylor’s warcrimes trial continues, the court was shown documents from the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund “categorically” stating that the charity had not received the diamonds, although records showed Campbell made cash donations to it in 1997 and 1998.
The actress Mia Farrow claimed that Taylor gave the model an uncut diamond after a dinner party hosted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1997.
Prosecutors say that is evidence he received diamonds from Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for weapons during that country’s 1992-2002 civil war.
The British model, who had fought to avoid testifying, arrived at the courthouse in The Hague on Thursday surrounded by police escorts. She did not speak to reporters outside.
Mr Taylor, 62, is accused by prosecutors of trading in “blood diamonds” to fund a brutal and bloody war carried out by rebels in Liberia’s neighbouring Sierra Leone.
Critical to their case is the allegation that his staff gave Miss Campbell, 40, a large uncut gem as a present after they met at a star-studded gala banquet hosted by Nelson Mandela in 1997.
Miss Farrow, who was also a guest at the dinner, is expected to testify next week that Miss Campbell had told her the “unforgettable story” about the gift over breakfast the next day.
“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 – I do not recall how many – who presented her with a large diamond which they said was from Charles Taylor,” she said.
Miss Campbell has denied the story and was issued with a subpoena and a warning that she faced a seven-year jail sentence after initially refusing to discuss it with the UN war crimes court.
In April, she insisted that she “never received a diamond”. In May, she told Oprah Winfrey, the US chatshow host, she did not want to be involved in Taylor’s case and feared for her safety if she were.
In court, Miss Campbell said: “I had never heard of Charles Taylor before. I had never heard of the country Liberia before. I had never heard the term blood diamonds before.”
On why she refused to give evidence, she said: “I did not want to be here. I was made to be here. I had never heard the term blood diamonds before.”
“This is someone who, I read on the internet, has killed thousands of people. I don’t want my family endangered in any way.”
She told her account of how she was presented with the gift, saying two men knocked at her door late at night.
“They said ‘a gift for you’ and then gave me a pouch. They were two black men.
“I took it, said thank you and closed the door. There was no explanation, no note.
“When they gave me the pouch I just put it close to my bed and went back to bed.
“I opened the pouch the next morning when I woke up.
“I saw a few stones. They were very, small, dirty looking stones.”
Mr Taylor, 62, has dismissed the story as “totally incorrect” and has denied ever owning, selling or trading diamonds illegally mined or stolen by rebels in Sierra Leone.
Miss Campbell is no stranger to courtrooms, having faced a series of minor lawsuits and criminal cases over the years.
Two years ago, she pleaded guilty in an incident where she cursed, kicked and spat at police at London’s Heathrow airport after flying into a rage over a missing piece of luggage.
She was sentenced to 200 hours of community service.
The model also did a week of community service in America three years ago after pleading guilty to assault for hurling a mobile phone at her maid because of a lost pair of jeans.
In 2000, Miss Campbell pleaded guilty in Toronto to an assault charge for beating an assistant who said the model has struck her on the head with a phone.