May 20, 2010 -- Prosecutors at an international war crimes trial have asked the judges to subpoena supermodel Naomi Campbell to testify about whether she received a 'blood diamond' from an African warlord.
The request comes after the attorney for Campbell's former modeling agent saw an ABC News report on allegations that Campbell had received a 'blood diamond' from former Liberian president Charles Taylor. The modeling agent, Carole White, has now given a statement to prosecutors saying that she witnessed several men giving Campbell a "half dozen" uncut diamonds.
Campbell has previously declined to testify in the case, which is being tried at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Netherlands. Prosecutors have asked the judges to subpoena Campbell, and to call Carole White and actress Mia Farrow as witnesses.
In her statement, White, who was Campbell's modeling agent from 1992 to 2007, claims that she saw men working for Taylor giving Campbell the uncut stones after a dinner at Nelson Mandela's house in South Africa in 1997. Taylor is on trial for allegedly fomenting a bloody rebellion in neighboring Sierra Leone, and using uncut diamonds to pay for weapons that he allegedly provided to the rebels.
When ABC News asked Campbell earlier this year if she had received a blood diamond from Taylor, she slapped an ABC News producer's camera aside and denied ever receiving a diamond. She has since refused to answer questions about the alleged receipt of a gem, telling talk show host Oprah Winfrey during a May appearance on her show that talking about the alleged incident would put her family in danger.
"I don't want to be involved in this man's case—he has done some terrible things and I don't want to put my family in danger," Campbell told Oprah and her millions of viewers.
Actress Mia Farrow claims that during a September 1997 visit to South Africa, she and Naomi Campbell were at then-South African president Nelson Mandela's house for a dinner when Charles Taylor showed up. War crimes prosecutors say that they believe Taylor was in South Africa to trade gems for weapons for the Sierra Leonean rebels.
Farrow has told ABC News, and war crimes investigators, that the morning after the dinner, Campbell told her she had received a "huge" uncut gem from representatives of Taylor who had come to her room during the night.
In a statement entered into the court record on May 18, Carole White says she remembers Taylor attending the dinner, and saying during the dinner that he would like to give diamonds to Campbell. White also says in the statement that representatives of Taylor came to the guest house where she and Campbell were staying that night and gave uncut diamonds to Campbell.
In an interview, White's lawyer, Daniel Bright, said that White overheard Taylor telling Campbell at the dinner that he wanted to give her diamonds. Later, according to Bright, when the representatives of Taylor came to the guest house they threw pebbles at the windows. They hit White's window with the pebbles and she let them into the house. White allegedly then watched the men gave about a "half-dozen" uncut gems to Campbell.
According to Bright, White remembers Campbell being disappointed with the stones, since she had not expected them to be uncut. Bright said that White claims she convinced Campbell to dispose of the stones the next day, and that she gave them to an unnamed third individual.
Mia Farrow told ABC News and prosecutors that Campbell had told her she planned to give the diamond to Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. The Fund told ABC News that it has no record of receiving any gems from Naomi Campbell.
White and Campbell are currently embroiled in dueling lawsuits. White was Campbell's agent at a London agency called Premiere Elite Modeling and then Premiere Modeling from 1992 to 2007. Bright is representing White in a suit against Campbell in which White alleges that Campbell owes her money for royalties earned on a perfume. Campbell's countersuit alleges that Campbell was tricked into an unfair deal for the perfume.
Bright said that White first told him the tale of the alleged 'blood diamonds' after the story first surfaced in an ABC News report in January. Bright said he did not realize at the time that prosecutors in a war crimes trial were seeking Campbell's testimony. When a second ABC News report aired in April, Bright asked White if she was willing to talk to prosecutors about the alleged blood diamonds, and she said she was willing. Neither a lawyer nor a spokeswoman for Naomi Campbell responded to requests for comment by press time.
A defense lawyer for Charles Taylor told ABC News Thursday that a "hearsay story of [Taylor] giving a gift of the diamond to a fashion model" would not prove the allegation that he bought arms while in South Africa.
The defense has ten days to respond to the prosecution's motion for a subpoena.