Accountant authorised rise in PA’s credit limit

The accountant in charge of Charles Saatchi’s finances has told a court he increased the art dealer’s assistant’s credit limit to £100,000 (€120,000) without telling Mr Saatchi the amount.

Mr Saatchi’s finance director Rahul Gajjar, 44, said he only began to suspect the sisters employed as assistants early last year.

During cross-examination by Karina Arden, representing Francesca Grillo, 35, Mr Gajjar said it was he who authorised the defendant’s credit limit, which started at £25,000.

Mr Gajjar said he increased it to £50,000 in Feb 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.

Questioned about why Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, 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 Ms Lawson, Mr Gajjar agreed.

Ms Arden said the sisters were treated differently to the other assistants, in that they were “like family”.

She said: “Francesca lived in the home. Her bedroom was actually very near to the bedroom of Charles and Nigella.”

Ms Arden suggested to Mr Gajjar that the sisters did not realise they were being accused of stealing when they were confronted by him, but rather that they were being asked what expenses had been personal such as taxi journeys they made on their own but while still carrying out their duties.

The court previously heard the defendants were open and apologetic about their spending at first, and it was only when they were sent a letter which they were asked to sign and admit they had stolen from the couple that they refused to co-operate.

Referring to Francesca, the barrister said: “That means, doesn’t it, that when she goes through the statement, that she was giving you an outline of what she had had a personal interest in. That’s right isn’t it? And you went though it very quickly?”

“Yes and yes,” Mr Gajjar said.

“What you end up with is a number of items which you put her name by... Without her being told that what is actually being alleged is that she has done something wrong?”

“That’s correct, yes,” Mr Gajjar said.

“The way you went about it, the process you used, was a bit like trying to trap her, wasn’t it?” Ms Arden asked.

“I don’t think that was the aim. It was always about trying to find a way out for the girls,” Mr Gajjar said.

More on this topic

Nigella avoids police action over drug admission during trialNigella avoids police action over drug admission during trial

Nigella 'disappointed but unsurprised' at acquittalNigella 'disappointed but unsurprised' at acquittal

Jury retires in Saatchi PA fraud caseJury retires in Saatchi PA fraud case

Saatchi 'attacking Lawson by trial'Saatchi 'attacking Lawson by trial'


Aileen Lee meets Christina Kenny - co-founder and design director of Lamb Design - to talk about her work and inspirations.Christina Kenny of Lamb Design: ‘I love bringing the outside in and inside out’

Tyrone designer Sharon Wauchob on her career and the worth of luxury fastion. By Paul McLachen.From Marc Jacobs to her own label, Tyrone designer Sharon Wauchob on her life in fashion

The recent sentencing of two teenage boys for the murder of Ana Kriégel has once again brought the issue of pornography into public discourse. The details of the case, which are finally coming into public knowledge, illuminate some very worrying trends that are pervasive in the modern adolescent world and as parents and indeed as a society we can no longer languish in complacency.Learning Points: Hardcore porn can pollute our children’s minds

If children are confident in interacting with others it takes away so much stress and social anxiety for them. Not too long ago, my daughter Joan and I were out with friends at a restaurant and we wanted extra water and a few other bits and Joan volunteered to go up and ask the waiter for them. My friend was really surprised at this and said that none of her children would willingly do that.Mum’s the word: We should look for chances to strengthen our kids’ social skills

More From The Irish Examiner