What they’re saying about the blood diamonds trial
Is this a war crimes trial or a bitch-fight? The day Charles Taylor took a back seat at his own hearing
Commentators have had a field day following the extraordinary testimony at The Hague yesterday when the man on trial for crimes against humanity - former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor - took a back seat while a New York actress and a London model agency proprietor argued with Taylor's QC about his client's supposed gift of blood diamonds to the supermodel Naomi Campbell.
Crucially, as The First Post reported yesterday, both women gave very different accounts to that of Campbell, who had already given her version of what happened that night in South Africa in 1997.
In a nutshell, Campbell had been dismissive about the gift of a bag of uncut diamonds brought to her room in Nelson Mandela's guest-house by two men after she had already gone to bed.
Used to being given gifts by virtual strangers, she put the bag they handed her by the bed, and went straight back to sleep without even bothering to see what they'd handed her.
In the morning, she finally took a look and was deeply unimpressed to find "some dirty looking stones" at the bottom of the bag. At breakfast, she told Mia Farrow and Carole White what had happened and agreed that they must presumably have come from Charles Taylor, whom she had met at dinner the previous night.
Farrow and White had a very different story to tell. Campbell had flirted with Taylor during the dinner and was thrilled to bits when he told her he was going to give her a gift of some diamonds. He didn't have them with him and would have to send his men to collect them.
Campbell was so excited, according to White's testimony, that she and her agent kept popping out into the garden to see if the men with the promised diamonds had arrived. When they finally turned up, they handed over five or six stones which - according to White - were "disappointing because they weren't shiny".
Taylor's QC, the very tough Courtney Griffiths, questioned the agendas of both Farrow and White - but particularly the latter, who was forced to admit that she is in the middle of litigation with Campbell over lost earnings from a cosmetics deal gone wrong.
"I suggest that your motive in lying about Naomi Campbell is to provide you with ammunition for use against her in the law suit," said Taylor.
"That's not true," replied White.
Griffiths then questioned White about a party for her staff held in London on the evening of Campbell's testimony at The Hague last Thursday. One of White's employees at Premier Model Management, Annie Wilshire, had posted a photo on her Facebook page of agency staff and models enjoying themselves at the party, and captioned it 'Blood diamond night'.
In another Facebook exchange, a former employee had pointed up the 'quote of the day' at The Hague, when Campbell told the court that she found it "really inconvenient" to be be subpoenaed to attend the war crimes trial.
"When she said that the whole agency laughed," wrote Wilshire. "Can't wait for Carole to bring her down on Monday at the Hague."
Pressed by Griffiths, White that "there was some discussion about Naomi Campbell's testimony" at the Thursday night staff party, but denied that she had organised the event to mark Campbell's day in court.
"I'm not crass enough to arrange a party like that," she said. "That would be absurd."
Within hours of the exchange at The Hague, Wilshire's Facebook page was taken down.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:David Charter in the Times: "It was claimed that Ms White had a clear target in her sights: the model, with whom she has had a spectacular falling out and whose reputation she was trying to tarnish. That was the theory of Mr Taylor¹s defence team and it was hard not to disagree as the back story to the 'Mother Agent¹s' appearance in court unfolded and her steely composure began to crumble."
Ivan Fallon in the Independent: "Mr Taylor, it seems, like many men in her [Naomi Campbell's] life, had taken a fancy to her at the Mandela dinner, and, presumably in the hope of taking the relationship a tad further, promised to give her diamonds.
"But he didn't have them to hand and had to send his thugs to Johannesburg to get some. They arrived back in the early hours, woke her up, and presented her with an unprepossessing paper packet of what Ms Campbell later described as 'dirty-looking pebbles' and which Mia Farrow, who never saw them, said was one 'huge' diamond. Ms Campbell clearly had expected something that glittered, and whatever amorous hopes he nurtured were dashed.
"This was the tale she had related over breakfast to Ms Farrow and her agent Carole White and it was that conversation that landed all three of them in court this past week. On this slender evidence of hearsay and chit-chat between women who are now at each other's throats rests the prosecution case against one of the nastiest men of our age."
Lizzy Davies in the Guardian: "If the prosecution had hoped that the testimony of these two witnesses [Farrow and White] would give extra weight to the alleged link between Taylor and 'blood diamonds', they had not reckoned with the agility of Courtenay Griffiths, defence lawyer for the alleged war criminal.
"Under cross-examination, she [Farrow] admitted she could remember neither where she was sitting at the dinner nor whether Taylor had stayed to eat. She had problems remembering her son's age 'maths isn't my forte' and described Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricketer and fellow guest, as a 'soccer player'.
"At one stage, the chief judge even asked her if her memory had been clouded by the 2006 film Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio."
Laura Barton in the Guardian: "Am I the only person concerned that the trial of former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor is being slightly overshadowed by a general desire that there might be an all-out bitch-fight between Naomi Campbell and Mia Farrow? Reminder, folks: this is a war crimes tribunal, not some kind of Ultimate Fighting Championship (women's division) event." ·
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