independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Nigella Lawson’s PAs not guilty of fraud

Celebrity chef, Nigella Lawson, arrives at Isleworth Crown Court in London, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. Lawson arrived at court on Thursday for a second day where she will testify as a prosecution witness at the trial of Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, longtime employees who worked as nannies, cleaners and assistants in the couple's London home. The Grillos ? sisters from Calabria in southern Italy ? are accused of using credit cards loaned to them by Lawson and Saatchi for household expenses to spend 685,000 pounds (more than $1 million) on luxury clothes, accessories and rooms at high-end hotels. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Nigella Lawson, arrives at Isleworth Crown Court in London.

TWO former personal assistants to Charles Saatchi and his ex-wife Nigella Lawson have been cleared of fraud.

The jury at Isleworth Crown Court, west London, found Italian sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo not guilty of a single count of fraud each.

It was alleged that between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2012, the women committed fraud by abusing their positions as PAs, using a company credit card for personal gain - and were accused of spending more than £685,000 on themselves.

Elisabetta, 41, sometimes referred to in court as Lisa, and Francesca, 35, both of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, had been accused of living the "high life".

The court heard they used credit cards loaned to them by the TV cook and her ex-husband Mr Saatchi to buy designer goods from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.

Francesca was accused of spending the largest amount on herself - a sum of £580,000.

But the sisters insisted all of their purchases had been authorised.

And in a sensational twist their defence lawyers introduced allegations of drug-taking by Ms Lawson and marital strife involving the celebrity couple.

It was claimed by the defence that there was a culture of secrecy within the high-profile couple's marriage and that the Grillo sisters were aware of Ms Lawson's alleged drug use, while Mr Saatchi was not.

The defence claimed that Elisabetta's knowledge of Ms Lawson's supposed drug use materially affected the TV cook's attitude towards her spending.

After the three-week trial, the jury of seven men and five women rejected the prosecution's claims that the purchases on the cards had been unauthorised.

Lauren Turner and Catherine Wylie

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