Charles Saatchi has 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.