Charles Taylor: How Naomi Campbell 'blood diamond' evidence was critical
EVIDENCE surrounding the "dirty stones" allegedly given to the British supermodel Naomi Campbell by Charles Taylor was critical to linking the former Liberian warlord and president to crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone.
Taylor, 64, is accused by United Nations 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 was evidence that his staff gave Naomi Campbell a bag of gemstones as a present after they met at a star studded gala banquet hosted by Nelson Mandela, then South Africa's President, in 1997.
Appearing as a witness in August 2010, Miss Campbell said that she had been given three "small, dirty-looking stones" by some mysterious visitors while staying in a government chalet as a guest of the South African President.
"I'm used to seeing diamonds shiny and in a box," she said.
Conflicting testimony from Miss Campbell, Mia Farrow, the Hollywood film star and Carole White, the model's former agent of 17 years standing – all present at the Mandela dinner – provided headlines for a case that often struggled to grab the world's attention during a four year trial.
But behind the celebrity froth was important evidence linking Taylor to a trade in illegally mined diamonds that were siphoned off to arm and supply the rebels that left 120,000 people dead and millions of homeless, instead of helping Sierra Leone, the world's poorest country.
During the visit to Mr Mandela in South Africa, Taylor is alleged to have carried a cache of diamonds to buy arms which were shipped via Burkina Faso to insurgents in a shipment landed at Sierra Leone's Magburaka airfield in October 1997.
It is thought that the "dirty looking stones" given to Miss Campbell were part of the cache. "The blood diamonds issue is an important part of the case and the verdict will certainly review the evidence heard by the court," said a UN source.
The value of the diamonds looted by Sierra Leone's rebels and allegedly traded for weapons with Taylor, a warlord and then president in neighbouring Liberia, could have been as high as £950 million.
The popular Hollywood film, Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, dramatised the role of the gemstone in Sierra Leone's civil war, which took place between 1996 and 2002.
Blood or conflict diamonds are the name for gems mined illegally, and often under violent coercion, in African warzones. The diamonds are then used to fund warlords or insurgents trying to take over a country