Saatchi 'gave PA card to buy whatever she wanted'

Francesca (left) and Elisabetta Grillo Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo deny fraudulently using credit cards

A former personal assistant accused of defrauding Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson has said she was given a bank card to "buy whatever I wanted".

Francesca Grillo, 35, told Isleworth Crown Court the bank card was used to withdraw her salary.

"I was never given strict rules. Charles just said, 'there is your card'," she said.

Francesca and her sister Elisabetta Grillo, 41, both deny fraudulently using credit cards.

"I would live in the annex of the house. I was told to buy whatever I wanted with that card," Ms Grillo said.

"I have never had a contract of employment. That arrangement lasted for four years until I was put on the pay roll."

'Beyond loyalty'

Start Quote

I never stopped loving Charles or Nigella or the children”

End Quote Francesca Grillo

Ms Grillo told the court the card was also used to buy essentials for the family, as her role involved housekeeping, shopping and cooking meals.

She said her relationship with her former employers went "beyond loyalty" and she did everything she could to please them.

"When something like this is happening, you don't stop loving them," she said.

"You're disappointed, but you don't stop loving them. I never stopped loving Charles or Nigella or the children."

Sharrine Scholtz Sharrine Scholtz said she feared being in the same situation as the Grillo sisters

Ms Grillo denied booking taxis on the family's account was a secret and said she was allowed to order one whenever she needed to.

The court also heard that Ms Grillo was responsible for giving money to the couple's children, which was often up to £80 to each child five days a week. She said it was common for the children to pay for their friends if they went out for dinner.

'Treat yourself'

Ms Lawson was "very appreciative" of Ms Grillo's loyalty and told her to "treat yourself" if she saw an item she liked, she told the court.

"She bought me presents, she let me get holidays, she paid for some of my holidays," Ms Grillo said.

The court heard that the former PA once bought herself a Chanel bag with her work credit card after Ms Lawson said that was "fine", as it was a thank you gift.

In her role managing the household Ms Grillo also withdrew money to pay cleaners, handymen and gardeners, which included cleaning the family's collection of silver at a cost of £400 twice a month.

The defendants are accused of spending £685,000 on credit cards belonging to the celebrity couple to buy designer goods and luxury holidays.

The defence argues Ms Lawson consented to the PAs spending as they were "intimately connected to her private life and were aware of the drug use which she wanted to keep from her then-husband Charles Saatchi".

Nigella Lawson has denied having a drugs problem.

'Career suicide'

Earlier another woman who worked for Mr Saatchi said she was "committing career suicide" by giving evidence in support of the PAs.

Sharrine Scholtz, a former financial assistant, said she had been accused of using a company taxi account without authorisation and forced to sign a gagging clause when she left her job.

Miss Scholtz told the court she was forced to leave her job and sign a compromise agreement after setting up her own gallery.

Start Quote

Anyone who speaks up against the Saatchi Gallery black marks themselves from working for anybody else in the art world”

End Quote Sharrine Scholtz

She said: "I have everything to lose by standing up here and nothing to gain."

She said she was "committing career suicide by speaking up" but insisted: "I'm here to speak the truth".

"Anyone who speaks up against the Saatchi Gallery black marks themselves from working for anybody else in the art world," she said.

She said if she had not signed a gagging clause when leaving her job she feared "perhaps I would be standing here instead of Elisabetta and Francesca".

Anthony Metzer QC, defending Elisabetta Grillo, asked Miss Scholtz if members of staff were able to spend on designer goods.

She replied: "As far as I was aware, they were authorised by Nigella and Saatchi. It would come under staff welfare."

The trial continues.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC London

Weather

London

20 °C 13 °C

BBC Local Live

  1.  
    News on the hour 12:56: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    In the 1300 bulletin:

    • Met Police officers will not be charged over claims they fooled political activists into having sexual relationships with them
    • Crime on London's transport network has fallen by more than 10% in the last year
    • Iain Moody has resigned as sporting director of Crystal Palace
     
  2.  
    Terrorism accused in court 12:48:

    A 19-year-old has appeared in court charged with preparing to commit acts of terrorism.

    Dressed in a Call of Duty T-shirt, unemployed Brustchom Ziamani, of Warner Road, Camberwell, spoke only to confirm his name at Westminster magistrates.

    He was remanded in custody until 12 September.

     
  3.  
    Moody 'set to resign' 12:37:

    Iain Moody has resigned as Crystal Palace sporting director in the wake of allegations about racist, sexist and homophobic texts shared with his former colleague Malky Mackay, reports BBC Sport.

     
  4.  
    On air 12:27: Robert Elms Presenter, BBC London 94.9

    On today's show, the band behind Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs, Muddy Waters, and Sam & Dave will perform live.

    Muddy Waters The band behind Muddy Waters will be performing live

    And Tony Fletcher, the author of music biographies including Keith Moon and REM talks about his new book, which documents his own love affair with music.

     
  5.  
    'London' jihadist hunted for 12:15:

    Police and security sources are hunting for a jihadist - believed to be from London or the South East - who appeared in footage of the killing of US journalist James Foley.

    The Guardian reports the man was thought to be the leader of a group of British fighters based in Syria, and that he called himself "John".

     
  6.  
    Ward progresses in US Open 12:05:

    Britain's number two tennis player, Londoner James Ward, has made it through to the second round of qualifying for the US Open.

    James Ward

    BBC Sport says the 27-year-old is at a career-high 131 ranking and will be looking to make his first US Open main draw.

     
  7.  
    News on the hour 11:55: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    The United Arab Emirates' foreign ministry has released a map advising its citizens to avoid areas of London it claims are too dangerous because of fraud, theft and pickpocketing.

    Find out what areas have been highlighted in the 1200 bulletin.

     
  8.  
    Vandals fell trees 11:44:

    Police patrols have been stepped up in a park after vandals cut down 13 trees, reports the Evening Standard.

    The 15ft conifers were all felled during a single night in Enfield Town Park in north London. Eleven of them had been planted in a circle around a memorial bench.

     
  9.  
    Card fraudsters jailed 11:29:

    A gang of Romanian fraudsters have been jailed for stealing an estimated £16m-worth of bank card details from more than 60,000 people in the UK and abroad.

    The gang, three men and a woman, were involved in three stages of fraud - scamming bank card data from ATMs, downloading it on to a computer and then copying the details on to counterfeit plastic cards.

    They were jailed for between 21 and 64 months.

     
  10.  
    Winehouse statue 11:17:

    A life-sized statue of Amy Winehouse is to be unveiled on her birthday.

    Maquette of Amy Winehouse statue

    The bronze figure will be placed in the Stables Market.

     
  11.  
    Travel 11:03:

    There are severe delays on the Jubilee Line following an earlier signal failure at Swiss Cottage.

    Keep an eye on @jubileeline for updates.

     
  12.  
    News on the hour 10:55: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Londoners are being described as the least happy people in the UK - despite us having the strongest economy and the best wages.

    Edward Lister, deputy mayor for planning and policy, gives his views in the 11:00 bulletin.

     
  13.  
    Road deaths 10:43:

    Road safety in London is an important issue, particularly as the mayor's office is currently looking at improving the roads to make it safer for cyclists.

    But how many people have died on the capital's roads?

    Road death map

    Search your area and find out with this interactive map by BBC News.

     
  14.  
    London happiness 10:26:

    Although London has the strongest economy in the UK and pays the best wages, people are still not happy.

    A report for the London Assembly shows the unhappiest in the capital are those earning less than a £100 per week. But those paid over £4,000 a month had anxiety scores higher than people living elsewhere in the country

     
  15.  
    Violent offences on trains 10:12:

    There has been a big rise in violent offences on the London Underground and the Docklands Light Railway, figures from British Transport Police show.

    Cases of violence against the person rose 9.5%, from 1,897 in 2012-13 to 2,077.

     
  16.  
    News on the hour 09:57: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Our top story this hour: Police and the intelligence services are trying to identify the suspected British Islamic fighter who murdered an American journalist.

    Hear the views of former Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, on the current approach to preventing extremism, in the 1000 bulletin.

     
  17.  
    Couple rescued 09:50:

    A couple from London have been rescued after they were stranded on a north Wales island.

    Couple being rescued

    The pair became marooned on Ballast Island, Gwynedd, yesterday at about 17:00.

     
  18.  
    Third defeat for Fulham 09:41:

    Fulham suffered a third straight defeat since being relegated from the Premier League after Bakary Sako's goal earned Wolves victory at Craven Cottage.

    Sako struck after the Cottagers failed to deal with a first-half corner - the former France Under-21 international firing into the bottom corner.

     
  19.  
    Fly-tipping in Croydon 09:31:

    Travellers have left a "colossal" amount of fly-tipping on a third Croydon playing field in less than a fortnight, claims the Croydon Advertiser.

     
  20.  
    Olympics' architect to get honorary degree 09:20:

    Award-winning architect Dame Zaha Hadid is to receive an Honorary Degree from Goldsmiths, University of London in September.

    Dame Zaha designed the Aquatics Centre at the London 2012 Olympics site.

     
  21.  
    Hospital 'must improve' 09:09:

    Emergency and end-of-life care need to be improved at the North Middlesex University Hospital, the Care Quality Commission has said.

    North Middlesex University Hospital North Middlesex University Hospital will be unable to get foundation status until its grade improves

    It rated the hospital as "requires improvement" but praised its surgery, children's and maternity care. The hospital's trust welcomed the report, saying it had just been through a period of "massive change".

     
  22.  
    News on the hour 08:58: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Figures released today show violent offences committed on the London Tube and the DLR has gone up almost 10% compared to a year ago.

    British Transport Police Chief Constable Paul Crowther gives his verdict in the 0900 bulletin.

     
  23.  
    On air 08:49: Vanessa Feltz Presenter, BBC London 94.9

    The United States says it tried and failed to rescue the murdered American journalist James Foley. British intelligence services are working to identify his killer, who spoke with an English accent.

    I'll have more from 09:00.

     
  24.  
    Crystal Palace successor 08:40:

    Malky Mackay is no longer in contention to succeed Tony Pulis as Crystal Palace boss after misconduct allegations were made by his former club, Cardiff City.

    Malky Mackay Malky Mackay is out of contention after misconduct allegations

    The Welsh club have sent a dossier to the Football Association outlining their claims against the Scot.

     
  25.  
    Signal failures 08:32:

    There are severe delays on London Overground on routes to Stratford, Richmond and Clapham Junction because of an earlier signal failure at Gunnersbury.

    There are problems on the Tube too following a signal failure at Rayners Lane. Piccadilly Line has minor delays between Acton Town and Uxbridge while the Metropolitan Line also has minor delays between Harrow on the Hill and Uxbridge.

     
  26.  
    Roads closed 08:23:

    In Southall, the A4020 Uxbridge Road remains closed between Woodlands Road and Townsend Road while police investigate a fatal stabbing.

    In the A503 Seven Sisters Road remains closed southbound from St Ann's Road to Amhurst Park for ongoing repairs to a water main. Get the latest travel information on BBC London Travel News or on Twitter @BBCTravelAlert.

     
  27.  
    Top stories
     
  28.  
    Dry and cool day 08:09:

    A fine, dry and cool start to the day, with plenty of sunshine.

    But cloud will push in from the north-west during the afternoon and evening with the possibility of the odd shower tonight. Highs of 19C (66F).

    BBC London weather
     
  29.  
    08:00: Rebecca Cafe BBC News

    Good morning, I'll be bringing you all the latest news, sport, travel and weather from London today for BBC Local Live.

    You can also send your news, pictures and comments to locallive@bbc.co.uk.

     

Features

  • Baby being handed overFraught world

    The legal confusion over UK surrogate births


  • Bad resultsBlame game

    The best excuses to use when exam results don't make the grade


  • Welsh flagDragon's den

    Why Wales will make its own mind up on independence


  • BKS IyengarFlexible guru

    The man who helped bring yoga to the West


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.