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

24 °C 15 °C

BBC Local Live

  1.  
    Police custody death PC 'to be ordained' 13:21: Danny Shaw Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    A court has heard that a policeman under investigation over a death in custody wants to leave his force to become a priest.

    Sean Rigg

    PC Andrew Birks was the senior officer involved in the arrest of Sean Rigg who died at Brixton police station in south London in 2008. He is due to be ordained in 11 days' time - but the Metropolitan Police has refused to allow him to leave and has suspended him, pending the inquiry.

     
  2.  
    BBC London News 13:09: Sonja Jessup Presenter, BBC London News

    On the Programme at 13:30 on BBC One: We'll be live at City Hall finding out why Mayor Boris Johnson has announced a £10 charge to see the fireworks on New Year's Eve.

    And a new study's found that London has the highest rate of child obesity - compared to ten major cities around the world.

     
  3.  
    News on the hour 13:00:

    The lead headline at 13:00: There's been a sharp fall in unemployment. The jobless total dropped by 146,000 between May and July to just over two million. It also fell by 25,000 in London.

     
  4.  
    Uber gets green light in Germany 12:51:

    A German judge has overturned a nationwide ban on one of the services offered by the alternative taxi firm Uber, after a temporary injunction prevented the start-up from offering its UberPop ride-sharing service in the country.

    Uber app with black cab in background

    Cab drivers in London previously launched a day of protests over Uber's services, which they claimed broke Transport for London rules.

     
  5.  
    Council job loss predictions 12:42:

    Up to 500 Croydon Council employees could lose their jobs as the authority faces cutting its spending by £93m in three years, the Croydon Guardian reports.

    The scale of predicted job losses emerged in the same week the council revealed it is expected to shell out almost £8m more than budgeted for between 2014/15.

     
  6.  
    NYE fireworks to be ticketed 12:31:

    Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, Caroline Pidgeon, has criticised Boris Johnson for ticketing London's New Year's Eve fireworks display which will now cost £10.

    Fireworks explode over London on 1 January 2014

    She said: "London's New Year Eve fireworks showcases the capital to the world and...must be accessible to everyone and that must mean it remains free. It would be a scandal if any families were denied access to the event due to the introduction of ticket prices."

     
  7.  
    On air 12:20: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    On the Robert Elms show, Barbara Rochee talks about the Migration Museum's latest project Germans in Britain which explores the history of German migrants to Britain and sould band The Ephemerals play live.

    You can listen live on BBC London 94.9 and contact the team on 020 7224 2000.

     
  8.  
    Agent Fifi archive revealed 12:08:

    New wartime records released by the National Archives have revealed the existence of a glamorous female secret agent whose job was to see if other agents could keep their mouths shut.

    National Archives

    The files show that all too often Agent Fifi, as she was known, was able to get them to "spill the beans" and was employed to test out trainee agents in Britain before they were sent to occupied Europe in World War Two.

     
  9.  
    News on the hour 12:01:

    The lead headline at noon: A court has heard that PC Andrew Birks, the Met officer who is being investigated over the death of Sean Rigg in custody, wants to leave Scotland Yard and become a priest. Mr Rigg who died at Brixton police station in 2008.

     
  10.  
    'Epic shot' 11:55:

    Photographer Jason Hawkes tweets: A rather epic shot of @MPSinthesky yesterday over @cityoflondon #London.

    Aerial view of police helicopter
     
  11.  
    Video: Miss Saigon's 25th anniversary 11:44:

    Hit musical Miss Saigon, based on the opera Madame Butterfly, is celebrating its 25th anniversary year.

    Miss Saigon

    Lea Salonga and Eva Noblezada spoke to BBC Breakfast about their experience of playing Miss Saigon in the West End.

     
  12.  
    Mayor's Question Time 11:34:

    Mayor of London Boris Johnson is holding his monthly question session with assembly members which you can watch live here.

     
  13.  
    NYE fireworks to be ticketed 11:25: via Facebook

    News that London's New Year's Eve fireworks will cost £10 per ticket has got you all talking on the BBC London Facebook page.

    Matt Francis-burnett said: "I think this is a GOOD idea as it will limit the numbers to a respectable level and place less pressure on the transport and local area" but Jon Golding said "if its not about money why charge £10. Just do a free lucky dip of 100,000 names".

     
  14.  
    Boris not drawn on MP future 11:14: Tim Donovan Political Editor, BBC London

    Boris Johnson has refused to rule out standing for the Conservative leadership while still Mayor of London.

    At mayor's question time he was asked to clarify whether he would focus on the City Hall job until 2016, and during that time would not seek either a Cabinet job or the Conservative leadership, but Mr Johnson refused to speculate on "outrageous hypotheses", and said he was doing everything to help David Cameron saying "he's going to be PM in 2015 and beyond 2015".

     
  15.  
    News on the hour 11:04:

    The lead story at 11:00: The Chancellor George Osborne says today's unemployment figures mark another step towards full employment but there's still much more to do. In London the jobless total fell by 25,000 to just over 300,000 between May and July.

     
  16.  
    Airport expansion support 'increasing' 10:49:

    Support for airport expansion is increasing according to a survey by the travel organisation ABTA which found that as many as 41% of those polled agreed more airport capacity was needed - an increase of 5% on last year.

    The Davies Commission looking at expansion options is due to make its recommendation next Summer from three options: Building a third runway at Heathrow, constructing a second at Gatwick or lengthening the existing runway at Heathrow.

     
  17.  
    Feedback 10:39:

    We've introduced BBC Local Live to bring you the latest news, sport, travel and weather all in one place. Tell us what you think.

     
  18.  
    Super sewer issues 10:34:

    The government has been accused of approving London's controversial £4.2bn super-sewerwithout following "correct legal process", the Evening Standard reports.

    The Lee Tunnel which will connect to the Thames Tideway Tunnel

    Hammersmith and Fulham council leader Stephen Cowan claims a decision was taken months ago despite ministers officially needing to wait for a report which was published last week, and is threatening legal action. The government said it made the decision after "careful consideration".

     
  19.  
    Homecoming parade 10:20:

    Soldiers from the Coldstream Guards returning from Afghanistan will take part in a homecoming parade this morning.

    Coldstream Guards

    They will march from Wellington Barracks in Knightsbridge to the Guards Memorial at Horse Guards Parade.

     
  20.  
    Man stabbed on street 10:12:

    A 30-year-old man is in a critical condition in hospital after he was stabbed in Bounds Green in Haringey.

    Scotland Yard said it happened at the junction of Bounds Green Road and Brownlow Road shortly after midnight.

     
  21.  
    News on the hour 10:00:

    The lead headline at 10:00: Two problems on the Tube have caused disruption for thousands of commuters this morning. Over-running engineering work on the Central Line and the discovery of loose concrete above a Circle Line platform at King's Cross had led to severe delays and overcrowding.

     
  22.  
    Circle line resumes 09:57: Louise Pepper Journalist, BBC London

    The Circle Line has now resumed service, although there are severe delays.

     
  23.  
    NYE fireworks to be ticketed 09:46:

    People wanting to see this year's London New Year's Eve fireworks display will have to pay for the first time.

    London NYE fireworks

    London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced that 100,000 tickets will be made available for £10 each. Last year about 500,000 people went to watch the display although some complained they couldn't see or it took many hours to get home.

     
  24.  
    Tube update 09:36: Louise Pepper Journalist, BBC London
    • Euston, Kings Cross and Bank stations have re-opened
    • Waterloo and City line now running
    • Hammersmith & City line has resumed with severe delays
    • The Metropolitan Line has resumed with severe delays between Baker St and Aldgate
    • There is no service on the Circle line
     
  25.  
    Euston station 'closed' 09:26:

    TfL Travel Alerts tweet: Euston station is closed to the @victorialine and @northernline due to a faulty escalator

     
  26.  
    'Huge taxi queues' 09:12:

    BBC London's Tom Edwards tweets: Huge queues Kings X taxi rank

    Kings Cross taxi queues
     
  27.  
    Loose concrete at Kings Cross 09:03:

    BBC London's transport correspondent Tom Edwards tweets: Tfl saying loose concrete at Kings X spotted during routine inspection. Hopeful of re-opening sometime this morning ...

     
  28.  
    News on the hour 08:59:

    The lead headline at 09:00: A 30-year-old man's in a critical condition in hospital after he was stabbed in north London.

     
  29.  
    Tube update 08:47:

    Work to remove loose concrete in the roof at Kings Cross station as caused disruption on the London Underground this morning.

    • Circle Line: Delays
    • Hammersmith and City Line: Suspended between Baker Street and Barking
    • Metropolitan Line: Suspended between Baker Street and Aldgate
     
  30.  
    Top headlines
     
  31.  
    Scottish referendum 08:37: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Vanessa Feltz will be talking about the Scottish referendum on the final day of campaigning with opinion polls still suggesting it will be a close vote.

    No Thanks and Yes signs in flat windows in Edinburgh

    What are your thoughts? You can listen live on BBC London 94.9 and contact the team on 020 7224 2000.

     
  32.  
    Central line delays 08:27:

    Central line tweets: Minor delays as a result of the service recovering from a late finish to engineering work.

     
  33.  
    Estate agent choc thief sacked 08:16:

    An estate agent was sacked after being caught on camera apparently stealing a bar of chocolate while showing a client around a flat.

    Secret footage of estate agent stealing chocolate

    The outgoing tenant of the flat in Walthamstow, east London, was testing the motion-activated camera, which he intended to use in his new home, and said the theft elt like "a complete betrayal".

     
  34.  
    Rail and road delays 08:11:

    The Greater Anglia train service is suspended between Liverpool St and Enfield Town/Cheshunt via Seven Sisters till 15:00 due to an operating incident.

    On the roads, police are directing traffic at Grosvenor Place in Victoria.

     
  35.  
    Grey start, sunny later 08:07:

    Today will have a grey start with low cloud and mist, but the cloud will gradually lift during the morning with long spells of sunshine expected throughout the afternoon. With only light easterly winds it will feel very warm with highs of 22C (72F).

     
  36.  
    Major Tube disruption 08:04: Louise Pepper Journalist, BBC London

    Work to remove loose concrete at King's Cross means there is no service at all on the Circle Line, while the Metropolitan Line is suspended between Baker Street and Aldgate, and the Hammersmith & City line is suspended between Baker Street and Barking.

    There are also severe delays on the Central Line.

    For the latest information go to our travel page or follow us on Twitter @BBCLondonTravel

     
  37.  
    08:00: Beth Rose BBC News Online

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

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

     

Features

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.