There was a “culture of secrecy” in Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson’s marriage, a London court has heard today.
The news emerged during legal argument in the case involving Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson’s personal assistants who are accused of fraud.
Sisters Francesca, 35, and Elisabetta Grillo, 41, deny spending more than £685,000 ($1.1 million) on Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson’s credit cards.
Isleworth Crown Court has already heard how Charles Saatchi accused Nigella Lawson of allowing their staff to spend to cover her use of drugs.
Anthony Metzer QC, representing the Italian sisters, told the court: “The defendants’ case is that Nigella Lawson lied to her ex-husband about her drug use and about the expenditure that was incurred by the defendants, both expressly and implicitly, because she was fearful of Mr. Saatchi’s reaction if he knew about the extent of the expenditure and drug use.
“There was a culture of secrecy within Nigella Lawson’s marriage.”
He added: “If Mr. Saatchi is telling the truth, then Ms Lawson is a habitual criminal.”
After the jury was sworn in, prosecutor Jane Carpenter opened the case, stating that the trial “relates to the high life lived by Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo.
“The sort of life you may often see portrayed in glossy magazines.
“But we say that they did so not by their own endeavors but in a greedy and fraudulent free-for-all by abusing the trust of their employers in a four-year spending spree.”
She added: “The defendants both of whom were women of good character, employed by a wealthy family in a position of trust decided to abuse their [credit] cards.
“They travelled the world staying in top hotels and spent exorbitant sums of money on clothes and accessories.
“In total they spent in excess of £685,000. Francesca Grillo spent more than £580,000 and Elisabetta Grillo around £105,000.”
Earlier, the judge ruled the case against the Grillo sisters can go ahead, despite the defense lawyer arguing his clients would not get a fair trial.
Judge Robin Johnson said that “with the right rulings and the ability to monitor the process of the court during the process of the trial, a fair trial can be achieved”.
Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, both of Bayswater, west London, deny fraudulently using company credit cards to buy luxuries, including designer clothes and first-class air travel, between 2008 and 2012.
Anthony Metzer said his clients would not be able to receive a fair trial “as there has been a manipulation of the court process by the two main prosecution witnesses in this case”.
He said: “It’s a convenient forum for Mr. Saatchi and Ms Lawson to rehearse disputed issues between them… in the criminal courts where, of course, the possibility of libel is not possible.”
Prosecution lawyer Jane Carpenter argued the case should not be thrown out as “nothing raised shows manipulation of court process” and “the timeline proves it”.
“This case therefore started long before any allegations of drug taking,” the prosecution lawyer added.
During the hearing, Anthony Metzer read out part of a statement from Charles Saatchi, which said: “It was only during the break-up that I became aware that she was taking drugs when we were married.
“I can’t remember precisely when but I think it was in June 2013, at the time of the well-publicized incident at Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair.
“It was subsequently confirmed to me by other people in and around the household.”
Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson broke up in the summer after pictures were published showing the millionaire art dealer holding his wife by the throat at the restaurant in Mayfair.
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