International war crimes prosecutors said they were unaware of a photo showing supermodel Naomi Campbell with Charles Taylor before the picture was shown during an ABC News report Thursday.
The photo, found by actress Mia Farrow, shows Campbell posing with the African warlord at Nelson Mandela's house in 1997. Taylor is accused of using 'blood diamonds' to fuel an insurgency that cost tens of thousands of lives, and prosecutors want to know if Taylor gave Campbell a "blood diamond."
Farrow discovered the photo with an ABC News producer while looking through an old photo album. "I'm excited to hear that you have it," said Brenda Hollis, lead prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where Taylor is on trial. Hollis said she would consult with the prosecution team before deciding what to do next. Campbell had previously declined to provide testimony to prosecutors. The Special Court for Sierra Leone has the power to subpoena Campbell.
Campbell, Farrow and Taylor were at Nelson Mandela's house in Pretoria, South Africa in 1997 when the picture was taken. According to Farrow, the next morning, Campbell told her she had been visited by representatives of Taylor during the night, and they had given her a "huge" uncut diamond.
"You don't forget when a girlfriend tells you she was given a huge diamond in the middle of the night," Farrow told ABC News.
When ABC News tried to question Campbell about the allegation during a recent New York fashion show, the model had another of her infamous outbursts.
Asked if she had received a diamond from Charles Taylor, Campbell bristled. "I didn't receive a diamond and I'm not going to speak about that."
Campbell then stalked out of the interview and slapped the camera in a producer's hand.
Prosecutors say Campbell has refused their requests to be interviewed about the allegations that they say could help directly link Taylor, the former president of Liberia, to the possession of uncut diamonds used to buy weapons for rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone between 1997 and 2001.
Campbell would not answer questions about her alleged refusal to cooperate with the international criminal tribunal. Her London-based lawyer also declined to comment.
Taylor is accused of orchestrating bloody massacres in which thousands were killed or maimed by amputation, leading to the phrase "blood diamonds."
"The diamonds made possible the continuation of the conflict but they also profoundly profited Charles Taylor," said former chief prosecutor Steven Rapp, who is now the United States Ambassador at Large for War Crimes.
Campbell's alleged receipt of a "blood diamond" first surfaced when prosecutors contacted Farrow to ask about the dinner at Mandela's house. Farrow then told prosecutors what she remembered Campbell telling her about the visit from Taylor's men. At the time she spoke to prosecutors, however, she did not remember the photo of Campbell with Taylor.
Prosecutors say the event is significant because it directly links Taylor to such uncut diamonds. One of the allegations in the case is that Taylor was in South Africa at the time to buy weapons for the Sierra Leone rebels with "blood diamonds."
Under cross examination at the trial, Taylor repeatedly denied he had a large quantity of diamonds or that he sent one to Naomi Campbell.