This week, the Blotter is reprising 10 different Brian Ross Unit investigations that made a difference in 2010. Today: Naomi Campbell is forced to take the stand in a war crimes trial, and renting cars at your own risk.
A Supermodel, a Dictator and Blood Diamonds
ABC News began covering the international war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor several years ago, with numerous stories about the eccentricities of the ex-warlord, who is accused of using illicitdiamonds to pay for weapons that fueled the bloody civil war in the neighboring West African nation of Sierra Leone. But in 2010, when ABC News began pursuing the issue of some specific "blood diamonds" that had allegedly belonged to Taylor, the investigation led to a celebrity delivering important testimony against Taylor and the return of the long-lost gems.
In 1997, supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Mia Farrow were guests of then-South African president Nelson Mandela when Charles Taylor showed up at the presidential mansion. Farrow told ABC News that Campbell had told her that representatives of the Liberian strongman had brought her a large diamond that night. Farrow also produced a photo of Taylor and Campbell together at Mandela's house.
Campbell declined to come to the international court in the Netherlands that is trying Taylor to testify about the gems, though the gems were believed to be important evidence that Taylor had been in South Africa using uncut diamonds to buy weapons. During New York's Fashion Week, ABC News producers confronted Campbell backstage and asked her if she'd ever received gems from Taylor. The supermodel denied receiving the jewels, slapped the ABC News camera aside and stalked out of the interview. The confrontation was part of a Ross Unit Investigation that aired on Nightline in April.
Impact:The ABC News report and the photo, which was entered into evidence, helped spark a subpoena that compelled Campbell's testimony in the Hague. She reluctantly appeared in court in August. On the stand she told the tribunal that she had, in fact, received a handful of "dirty" stones, uncut diamonds, from men she took to be representatives of Taylor in the middle of the night. She said she had given them to a representative of a Mandela charity, who confirmed that she did give him the diamonds and has been holding them. Prosecutors played excerpts of the April Nightline report during Campbell's questioning.
Taylor has denied all charges against him, including giving Campbell diamonds. The trial is ongoing, with a decision from judges expected in 2011.
Taking Potentially Deadly Rental Vehicles Off the Road
As people hit the road this holiday season, they might be unaware of a surprising fact -- most rental car companies do not have policies in place to ensure that vehicles under safety recall are fixed before they're rented out. An ABC News investigation also revealed that there is no federal law requiring rental companies to repair recalled cars before handing the keys to consumers.