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Saturday 26 July 2014

Nigella 'signed Oprah agreement'

Published 11/12/2013|12:46

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Nigella Lawson's former personal assistants are at the centre of a fraud case

Nigella Lawson has signed an exclusive deal to be interviewed by American chat show host Oprah Winfrey, it has been claimed in court.

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Defence barrister Karina Arden told jurors that Nigella, who divorced Charles Saatchi earlier this year, would appear on the high profile show next month as she cross-examined the food writer's personal assistant Anzelle Wasserman.

"You know, don't you, that Miss Lawson has signed an exclusive agreement with Oprah Winfrey in January?" Ms Arden asked.

"That's not correct," Ms Wasserman replied, but did not elaborate on what details were or were not accurate.

Ms Wasserman, who began giving evidence in the trial of two of Nigella and Saatchi's former personal assistants yesterday, was also accused of conniving with her boss ahead of the trial.

"You I suggest have come to court partly to save, as you perceive it, Miss Lawson's reputation," Ms Arden said.

"I'm here to give witness evidence about the trial of the Grillos because I worked for them for so long, and that is why I'm here," Ms Wasserman answered.

Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo are on trial at Isleworth Crown Court in west London accused of abusing their positions by spending £695,000 on credit cards belonging to the celebrity couple on themselves.

Prosecutors claim the Italian sisters lived the "high life" by splashing out on designer clothes and handbags from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.

Elisabetta, 41, and Francesca, 35, each deny a single count of fraud.

Ms Wasserman was taken through a list of foreign trips that Francesca went on with Nigella and Saatchi's daughters from their previous marriages.

Asked why Francesca's credit card, tied to Saatchi's account with private bank Coutts, had no limit on it when all the other personal assistants' cards did, Ms Wasserman said she did not know.

Ms Wasserman, who has continued to work for Nigella since her marriage broke down as her "principal PA" and member of "Team Cupcake", was also questioned about a Donna Karen coat she wore to court. Ms Arden asked if Nigella had bought it for her.

"Well actually it wasn't brand new when it was given to me," she said. "It was Nigella's coat and I wore it once when it was cold and she said it looked so much nicer on me that I could keep it."

More details of Nigella and Saatchi's spending during their 10-year marriage were read out to the court during evidence from another member of "Team Cupcake", Zoe Wales.

Jurors heard that Nigella spent £54,552 at Donna Karen between 2008 and 2012, while more than £7,500 went on a custom made sofa. There was also a bill for £1,368 at Annabel's Wine Cellar along with £2,250 spent at Shi Cashmere, which Ms Wales said was for clothes for Nigella.

The details were given as Ms Wales, who has worked as a personal assistant to Nigella for nearly 13 years since her marriage to the late John Diamond, was questioned about the statements for the credit cards she was loaned.

They also included a £900 transaction for membership at club Soho House in December 2010, which Ms Wales said was a gift from Nigella to Francesca.

Ms Wales, who said she was given three credit cards and a debit card by the couple, said she was told they were to buy "household items principally". Asked by prosecutor Jane Carpenter if she ever used them for other things, Ms Wales told the court: "Only if I was given explicit instruction that I was allowed to do so."

She agreed that Nigella was a very generous employer as she spoke of how she allowed her to bring her baby to work and buy necessities for the infant.

During cross-examination Ms Wales was asked if Mr Saatchi was "not somebody you would want to go against?".

Ms Wales said: "I think one would always want to do what one had been asked."

Questioned further, she admitted: "Mr Saatchi could have a temper, yes."

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