Did Naomi Campbell Get a 'Blood Diamond' from a Corrupt African Dictator?

War crimes prosecutors say Liberia's Charles Taylor gave the supermodel a gem.

January 14, 2010, 10:35 AM

Jan. 14, 2010 — -- War crimes prosecutors claim that Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, gave a "blood diamond" to supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Taylor is on trial in an international court in the Netherlands on charges that he used murder, rape, amputation and child soldiers to support the rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone, and that he traded weapons to the rebels in return for diamonds. A "blood diamond" usually refers to a gem mined in an African war zone and sold to pay for weapons or armed rebellion.

During cross-examination of Taylor Thursday morning, lead prosecutor Brenda Hollis alleged that Taylor had given such a diamond to Campbell after a dinner in South Africa in 1997 attended by South African president Nelson Mandela, Campbell, musician Quincy Jones, and actress Mia Farrow.

The prosecution said that the diamond was among gems given to Taylor prior to the trip so that he could purchase arms for the Sierra Leone rebels from South African armament manufacturers.

"That diamond that you sent to Naomi Campbell," Hollis asked Taylor, "was one of the diamonds that you had been given by the junta in Sierra Leone. Isn't that correct?"

"Total, total nonsense," responded Taylor.

Hollis then said that Campbell had told Mia Farrow the next morning that men had come to her after the dinner and given her the diamond, saying it was from Taylor.

A spokesperson for Naomi Campbell said the supermodel has cooperated with the prosecution, but would not confirm or deny the diamond story. "Naomi has been assisting the special prosecutor where possible, but beyond that has nothing to add."

A spokesperson for Mia Farrow said the actress was in Africa and unavailable for comment.

Courtenay Griffiths, lead counsel for Taylor, objected to the introduction of the allegation, asking why prosecutors were relying on Farrow's anecdote and whether prosecutors had contacted Campbell.

Griffiths also noted that Farrow seemed biased against Taylor, since she and another guest at the dinner, Mandela's future wife Graca Machel, had apparently discussed their discomfort at sharing a meal with him.

Diamonds Financed the War

Taylor's defense team did not respond to a request for comment by ABC News by press time. Prosecutors declined a request for comment.

Taylor is being tried by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, an independent judicial body under the auspices of the United Nations that receives a third of its funding from the U.S. Taylor is charged with masterminding the atrocities, such as mass rape and amputation of civilians, in Sierra Leone (which shares a border with Liberia) in order to take advantage of the country's vast natural resources, including diamonds.

Over the course of the two-year long trial, Taylor has grabbed headlines by firing his first attorney and converting to Judaism. United Nations officials decided that for security reasons it would be safer to try Taylor at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands rather than in Sierra Leone where the atrocities occurred.

Prosecutors have accused Taylor, who served as Liberia's president from 1997 to 2003, of ordering his subordinates to murder and mutilate civilians, cut off their limbs, use women and girls as sex slaves, abduct adults and children, and force them to perform labor or become fighters to further his economic and political ambitions in the region. Taylor has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Defense attorney Griffiths has previously blasted the War Crimes Tribunal as "racist," and a tool of American foreign policy.

In October, former lead prosecutor Stephen Rapp told ABC News that illegal diamond money was a major motivation for Taylor's rape of his neighboring Sierra Leone: "It's [Sierra Leone's} rich diamond fields which financed the continued conflict, and according to our evidence, was part of the motivation for Taylor in going in there and carrying out a conflict that ranged across the 1990s with an increased level of atrocity against the civilian population."

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