Model's ex-agent accused over diamonds claims

Naomi Campbell's former agent was accused today of lying when she claimed the supermodel knowingly received "blood diamonds" from former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Naomi Campbell's former agent was accused today of lying when she claimed the supermodel knowingly received "blood diamonds" from former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Carole White repeatedly denied making up her account of what happened at a September 1997 party hosted by Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, South Africa.

Campbell insisted she did not know who gave her a gift of diamonds after the gathering - but her ex-agent and actress Mia Farrow have both contradicted her claim.

Ms White yesterday told the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, the Netherlands, that Campbell was flirting with Taylor at the dinner and he said he would give the model some diamonds.

Taylor's defence lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths QC, today suggested that her evidence was a "figment of her imagination".

He said: "Where you say that Miss Campbell and Mr Taylor were mildly flirtatious with each other, again I suggest that's a complete fabrication by you."

She replied: "It's not."

Mr Griffiths repeatedly quizzed Ms White about a witness statement in which she said she heard Taylor promising to give Campbell the diamonds at the dinner table.

She admitted today that she did not hear him say he would make the gift.

"He nodded that he was going to send her diamonds. I didn't hear the words, I don't recall them," she said.

"When Naomi Campbell leaned back to tell me that Charles Taylor was going to send her diamonds, he was in agreement. I don't recall the conversation word for word."

Mr Griffiths said: "The bottom line is, you made this up."

Ms White replied: "I did not make it up."

Ms White said Campbell told her that Graca Machel, Mr Mandela's future wife, was annoyed that the South African President had invited Taylor to the dinner.

But the Streatham-born supermodel said she was unaware of this, that she did not know who he was at the time and she had never even heard of Liberia.

Mr Griffiths said to Ms White: "I suggest that's a complete lie, nothing like that was said to you by Naomi Campbell."

She replied: "It's not a lie."

Campbell said she sat between Mr Mandela and American music producer Quincy Jones at the dinner.

But Ms White said the model was placed between Taylor and another man who she believed was the Liberian defence minister.

Mr Griffiths said to her: "I suggest you are totally wrong about that."

She replied: "It's what I recall."

Ms White is suing Campbell for breach of contract, claiming that the model owes her about US$600,000 (€457,994) in lost earnings over the past two years.

Ending his cross-examination, Mr Griffiths said: "Quite frankly, Miss White, I suggest that your account is a complete pack of lies, and you have made it up in order to assist in your lawsuit against Miss Campbell.

"Put bluntly, for you this is all about money, there ain't nothing funny."

Ms White replied: "I can categorically tell you, your honour, it is not a lie. This happened.

"I told people after the journey in 1997, people I trusted, this story - because it was quite funny at the time, although it's not funny now.

"It's totally the truth. It has nothing whatsoever to do with my business argument with Naomi Campbell."

She added: "This is not about money, this is about a very serious matter and I am telling the truth."

Ms White said she was present at the end of the dinner when Campbell and the Liberian defence minister discussed how the jewels would be delivered.

"It was quite clear that some men had already been dispatched to Johannesburg to collect the diamonds," she said.

The model's former agent said in her statement that Campbell and Taylor somehow communicated after the dinner, although she did not know if they phoned each other or sent text messages.

Later that night, after everyone had gone to bed, Ms White was roused when stones were thrown at the window of her room.

She said she went to the window and found two men outside who told her: "We've got a gift for Miss Campbell."

Asked how Campbell reacted on being told about the men, Ms White said: "I think she was quite excited that finally these diamonds had arrived."

The model and her agent let the two men in and offered them a Coca-Cola after they handed over the rough-cut diamonds in a "scruffy" piece of paper, Ms White said.

Mr Griffiths challenged her account, saying: "Two men you've never seen before that night just happen to throw stones at your window without knowing who you are or your connection to Naomi Campbell? How does that work?"

Ms White replied: "It's what happened. I can't say any more than that."

Mr Griffiths went on: "I suggest you are a liar."

She answered: "That's nice of you."

The defence lawyer continued: "I suggest that this account of what happened that night is a complete fabrication, which is why you are having difficulty dealing with the detail. Do you understand what I'm suggesting?"

Ms White said: "No."

Taylor is accused of war crimes during Sierra Leone's civil war, including using "blood diamonds" to fund rebels.

He denies 11 charges, including murder, rape, sexual slavery and recruiting child soldiers.

Asked whether the model spoke of the present she received in 1997, Ms White said: "Miss Campbell was given a gift of diamonds from a president.

"Quite frankly any woman who had been given a gift of diamonds from anyone would tell somebody. It was quite exciting."

Ms White agreed that a "hefty amount" was a stake in her legal dispute with Campbell, which relates to royalties from the model's perfume range.

Explaining why she came forward to give evidence to Taylor's trial, she said: "I have known this story since 1997. It is quite an amazing story.

"However, when I was told by my lawyer that Charles Taylor had been in the Hague in a war crimes trial, I realised it was very serious and the blood diamond issue had a big bearing on the case.

"It was my duty to tell my story that happened 13 years ago. I haven't lied and this is a true story."

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