Campbell diamond testimony under the spotlight

AMSTERDAM Sun Aug 8, 2010 7:41am EDT

1 of 13. British supermodel Naomi Campbell is seen on a screen in the pressroom of the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam August 5, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Vincent Jannink/Pool

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - British supermodel Naomi Campbell's testimony at the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor will be put to the test on Monday when her former agent is expected to contradict her over a gift of diamonds.

Carole White will appear at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague to testify over a late-night gift Campbell received in 1997 after both of them had attended a charity dinner hosted by South Africa's then-President Nelson Mandela.

Taylor, on trial for war crimes in The Hague, was also at the dinner. White previously told the prosecution that Campbell and Taylor were "mildly flirtatious" with each other and that she heard Taylor tell Campbell he was going to send her some diamonds.

"Ms Campbell seemed excited about the diamonds and she kept talking about them," White said in testimony read out to the court.

White recalled that Campbell was later given "a scrubby piece of paper" containing about six small greyish pebbles, but that Campbell "was disappointed because she thought she was going to get a big shiny diamond and these just looked like pebbles."

For her part, Farrow has also told the prosecution that Campbell came to breakfast with an "unforgettable" story that two or three men had given her "a large diamond" which they said was from Taylor.

Prosecutors are trying to link the diamonds to Taylor, 62, to prove allegations that he received diamonds from rebels in Sierra Leone, which they say he then used to buy weapons during the 1997 trip to South Africa. Taylor denies the allegations.

"Blood diamonds" are diamonds mined in conflict zones and sold to fund warring parties.

Campbell has called White's comments a lie and said last week she did not know who the diamonds came from, saying she had been woken in the night by two men knocking at her bedroom door who gave her a pouch with a few small "dirty looking pebbles."

The fashion model said she told White and Farrow about the gift the next day at breakfast and that she gave them to Jeremy Ratcliffe, the then-head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.

Ratcliffe said he took them because he feared Campbell might be breaking the law by taking them out of South Africa and kept them for the next 13 years. He handed them over to South African police on Thursday, shortly after Campbell's testimony.

INVESTIGATION

Police said on Sunday a test had proven the stones to be diamonds and that authorities have started an investigation into the stones to determine their origin. It is an offence in South Africa to possess uncut diamonds.

Industry experts have said it is virtually impossible to put a value on the diamonds without knowing their size and quality.

In court last week, Taylor's defense lawyer Courtenay Griffiths tried to discredit White's statement by linking it to a legal row she has with Campbell. "This is a woman who has a powerful motive to lie about you," Griffiths said to the model.

An assistant for White at Premier Model Management in London declined to comment on the matter.

Taylor is charged with 11 counts of instigating murder, rape, mutilation, sexual slavery and conscription of child soldiers during wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in which more than 250,000 people were killed. He denies all the charges.

(Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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