Nigella assistants' fraud trial to begin amid drugs claims




Two sisters who acted as personal assistants to Nigella Lawson and her former husband Charles Saatchi will stand trial in Britain today accused of using a credit card given to them by the celebrity couple to buy things for themselves.

It is alleged that Italians Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo committed fraud by abusing their positions as PAs by using a company credit card for personal gain.

The court yesterday heard how Charles Saatchi referred to his former wife Nigella Lawson as “Higella” and accused her of being so off her head on drugs that she allowed their personal assistants to spend the couple’s money on whatever they liked.

Elisabetta, 41, and Francesca, 35, both of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, will go on trial at Isleworth Crown Court.

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.

At a pre-trial hearing yesterday, Judge Robin Johnson read out an email sent from Saatchi to Lawson following their high-profile divorce earlier this year.

In the email Saatchi said: “Of course now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you ... were so off your head on drugs that you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked and yes I believe every word the Grillos have said, who after all only stole money.”

The millionaire art dealer called his ex-wife “Higella” in the email, which was sent on October 10, and signed off “Classy!”, the court heard.

Judge Johnson said that when Saatchi was asked by police to explain what he meant in the message to the TV chef, he said: “At the time of sending the email I was completely astounded by the scale of drug use set out in the statements (from the defendants).

“Nevertheless I did believe the allegations that I’m referring to in the email. I have been asked whether it referred to a belief that Nigella ... permitted the sisters to spend whatever they liked.

“I can’t remember precisely what I had in mind. On reflection I was simply speculating that the sisters would use this information to defend themselves.”

Saatchi and Lawson broke up after pictures were published in a newspaper in June showing Saatchi holding his wife by the throat.

The incident on the terrace of Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair, central London, was dismissed by Saatchi as nothing more than “a playful tiff” but he later accepted a police caution for assault.

Saatchi went on to tell the Mail on Sunday that the pictures gave a “wholly different and incorrect implication”.

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