Nigella's assistants 'treated like slaves'

Last updated 08:13 29/11/2013
Nigella lawson

COURT DRAMA: Celebrity cook Nigella Lawson and her former husband Charles Saatchi.

saatchi accountant
WITNESS: Rahul Gajjar, Charles Saatchi's accountant, arrives at Isleworth Crown Court in west London.

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The former personal assistants of Nigella Lawson and ex-husband Charles Saatchi claim they were treated "worse than Filipino slaves" when confronted over their credit card spending.

Saatchi's finance director Rahul Gajjar told London jurors Elisabetta Grillo, 41, made the claim after he wrote to her and her sister Francesca, 35, about their alleged use of the cards to buy £685,000 (NZ$1.37 million) worth of luxury goods for themselves, the Daily Mail reported.

Gajjar told Isleworth Crown Court other assistants employed by Saatchi spent a maximum of £8,000.

The Grillo sisters both deny fraud.

Gajjar told the court he did not tell the former couple of his suspicions about the assistants' spending, as he did not want to bother them.

"It was on the back burner," he told the prosecution.

"We were dealing with more corporate matters - more serious corporate matters - and Mr Saatchi and Miss Lawson normally didn't have time for what we thought were trivial matters."

The duo were initially apologetic when confronted by Gajjar about the spending but that quickly changed when they were asked to sign agreements to pay back the money.

Gajjar suggested they continue on their current salaries with Francesca, who is alleged to have spent the majority on herself, expected to pay back £1,000 a month, and Elisabetta £250 per month.

''Lisa was against the proposal and I remember a reference to  'We're being treated worse than Filipino slaves','' Gajjar said.

"They felt it tied them to the company for the rest of their lives."

Saatchi and Lawson then went to the police after they failed to  reach an agreement with the two sisters.

Details of the Grillo's lavish spending were also revealed in court. They went on a non-stop shopping trip in New York in June last year, it was alleged.

Francesca ran up a £64,000 (NZ$128,000) bill that month and her expenditure included over £4700 (NZ$8400) on flights to New York, where she spent £1,850 (NZ$3700) at high-end fashion store Miu Miu.

The trial continues with both the celebrity cook and her former husband still expected to appear as witnesses.

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