Millionaire art dealer Charles Saatchi is expected to be questioned on details of his marriage to ex-wife Nigella Lawson today when he gives evidence in the trial of two former personal assistants to the celebrity couple.
Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo are accused of using credit cards loaned to them by the family to spend more than £685,000 on themselves.
Prosecutors claim the pair lived the “high life”, spending the money on designer clothes and handbags from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.
The court heard that Francesca Grillo, 35, spent the most money on her credit card, which was registered to Conarco Partnership – one of Mr Saatchi’s companies.
She was estimated to have used it to buy goods for herself worth in excess of £580,000 and in June last year alone ran up a £64,000 bill as she went on luxury holidays and bought designer clothes, it is alleged.
Her 41-year-old sister’s total spend was estimated to be around £105,000, jurors at Isleworth Crown Court in west London were told.
Yesterday, Mr Saatchi’s finance director Rahul Gajjar spent the day giving evidence, telling the court that Elisabetta complained they were “being treated worse than Filipino slaves” when they were confronted over their alleged spending sprees at the couple’s expense.
He said they made the claim after he wrote them each a letter outlining how the sisters would pay off their debt to the couple, who went through an acrimonious divorce earlier this year.
Mr Gajjar, 44, told jurors he began to suspect the sisters’ alleged fraud early last year after noticing that Francesca’s average monthly spend on her card was £48,000, while Elisabetta’s was £28,000.
In comparison, the other personal assistants employed by Mr Saatchi had a maximum average spend of £8,000, while the average amount Ms Lawson herself spent on her card per month was just £7,000.
Mr Saatchi attended court yesterday but his evidence was not reached so he was told to return today. He will be questioned once cross-examination of Mr Gajjar is completed.
Mr Saatchi and Ms Lawson ended their 10-year marriage earlier this year after pictures were published in a newspaper showing him holding the TV chef by the throat.
The court previously heard allegations that Ms Lawson was so high on drugs that she was unaware of what she had or had not permitted the sisters to spend money on.
The Grillos, both of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west 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.
Ms Lawson is expected to give evidence in the trial next Wednesday.