27 November 2013
Last updated at 11:43 ET
Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi were granted a divorce in July
There was a “culture of secrecy” in Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson’s marriage, a court has heard.
It emerged during legal argument in the case involving their personal assistants who are accused of fraud.
Sisters Francesca, 35, and Elisabetta Grillo, 41, deny spending more than £685,000 on the couple’s credit cards.
Isleworth Crown Court has already heard how Mr Saatchi accused Ms 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.
Defence lawyers argued the Grillo sisters would not get a fair trial, but the judge disagreed
“But we say that they did so not by their own endeavours 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 defence 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”.
The sisters, 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.
Mr 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.
Held by throat
Prosecution lawyer Ms 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, Mr Metzer read out part of a statement from Mr 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-publicised incident at Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair.
“It was subsequently confirmed to me by other people in and around the household.”
Mr Saatchi and Ms 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.
Mr Saatchi accepted a police caution for assault.
Earlier, Ms Lawson tweeted: “Holiday Hotcake: the perfect recipe to show thanks for all your support to those who hashtag #teamNigella.”