Wednesday 13 December 2017

Charles Saatchi 'utterly bereft' private email to Nigella was made public

Charles Saatchi arrives at Isleworth Crown Court in west London November today
Charles Saatchi arrives at Isleworth Crown Court in west London November today
Charles Saatchi
Charles Saatchi arrives at Isleworth Crown Court in west London
Charles Saatchi arrives at Isleworth Crown Court in west London
Elisabetta Grillo ( arrives at Isleworth Crown Court in westLondon

Charles Saatchi has told a court he was "utterly bereft" that a private email he sent to ex-wife Nigella Lawson referring to her being off her head on drugs has been made public.

The email he wrote to the TV chef was read in full to jurors but, when asked if he believed allegations that Miss Lawson was a habitual cocaine user, the art dealer said: "I do not know."

"If you ask me whether I actually knew whether Nigella ever took drugs, the answer is no," Mr Saatchi added as he gave evidence at Isleworth Crown Court in west London, where his two former personal assistants are on trial accused of fraud

Earlier, he told a court it was his ex-wife Nigella Lawson's idea to let their personal assistants have company credit cards.

The millionaire art dealer, who went through a high-profile divorce from the TV cook earlier this year, said he was "very fond" of Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, who are accused of using credit cards loaned to them by the celebrity couple to spend more than £685,000 on themselves.

It is alleged that the two women lived the "high life", spending the money on designer clothes and handbags from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.

Asked by prosecutor Jane Carpenter who decided that the defendants should have credit cards, Mr Saatchi said: "My ex-wife, Nigella."

Mr Saatchi told jurors at Isleworth Crown Court in west London that the credit card bills were paid by his company - Conarco Partnership - before he reimbursed it from his own personal account.

"I'm pretty certain the company pays off everything and bills me and I pay back the company for anything that's personal," he said.

He told the court the sisters were originally employed as a nanny by Miss Lawson during her marriage to her late husband, John Diamond.

When Mr Saatchi married the food writer, the Grillos also looked after his own young daughter, Phoebe, who is now 19, but their role changed as the children grew older.

"The children adored them and Nigella was very fond of them and I was very fond of them and we didn't want them to go so they stayed on as housekeepers and general assistants," Mr Saatchi said.

 

Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo are accused of using credit cards loaned to them by Mr Saatchi and his ex-wife Nigella Lawson to spend more than £685,000 on themselves.

Prosecutors claim the pair lived the "high life" and went on a spending spree, buying designer clothes and handbags from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.

Jurors at Isleworth Crown Court in west London previously heard that Francesca, 35, spent the most money on her card, which was registered to Conarco Partnership - one of Mr Saatchi's companies.

She is alleged to have used it to buy items for herself worth in excess of £580,000 and in June last year alone ran up a £64,000 bill on luxury holidays and designer goods, it is claimed.

Mr Saatchi's finance director, Rahul Gajjar, 44, said earlier that he only began to suspect the sisters early last year.

Now, during cross-examination by Karina Arden, representing Francesca, Mr Gajjar has said it was he who authorised the defendant's credit limit, which started off at £25,000.

Mr Gajjar said he increased it to £50,000 in February 2010 and then £100,000 in June 2011 as the defendant kept going over the limit and her card was frozen.

Ms Arden asked: "So the level of spending, which may be suggested by the Crown to be extraordinary - certainly you and Charles knew about it?"

"Yes," Mr Gajjar replied.

Ms Arden went on: "He knew that a credit limit of £50,000 was insufficient at one point and therefore asked for it to be increased?"

"The details of the figure I don't think Charles was aware of," Mr Gajjar said.

Asked why Francesca and Elisabetta, 41, were expected to buy so much for the household, Mr Gajjar said: "Charles and Nigella didn't generally go shopping like most people do. They would have their personal assistants shop for them."

Ms Arden said Francesca worked long hours for the celebrity couple, often from 5am or 6am until late at night, and travelled around the world with them and their children.

Asked if Francesca "lived and breathed" Mr Saatchi and Miss Lawson, Mr Gajjar agreed.

The Grillos, both of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, London, deny the charge against them.

It is alleged that, between January 1 2008 and December 31 2012, they committed fraud by abusing their positions as PAs by using a company credit card for personal gain.

Mr Saatchi, who went through a high-profile divorce from cookery writer Miss Lawson earlier this year, is expected to give evidence later.

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