Nigella PA's 'slave' outburst
Two personal assistants to Charles Saatchi and his ex-wife Nigella Lawson complained that they were "being treated worse than Filipino slaves" when they were confronted over their alleged spending sprees on the couple's credit cards, a court has heard.
Rahul Gajjar, finance director for wealthy art dealer Mr Saatchi, told jurors that Elisabetta Grillo, 41, made the claim after he wrote to her and her sister about their alleged use of the celebrity couple's credit cards to buy £685,000-worth of luxury goods for themselves.
Mr Gajjar told jurors that at first Elisabetta, referred to in court as Lisa, and co-defendant Francesca, 35, were open and apologetic about their spending spree.
But he said that after he wrote them each a letter outlining how the sisters would pay off their debt which they were expected to sign, they became "agitated".
"Lisa was against the proposal and I remember a reference to 'We're being treated worse than Filipino slaves'," Mr Gajjar, 44, told jurors at Isleworth Crown Court in west London.
Mr Gajjar said Mr Saatchi and Ms Lawson, who divorced earlier this year, agreed that the sisters should continue working for them when the alleged offences came to light early last year.
He told jurors that he suggested that they continue on their current salaries with Francesca, who is alleged to have spent the largest amount on herself - £580,000 - expected to pay back £1,000 a month, and Elisabetta £250 per month.
They would also be able to live rent-free at a flat owned by Ms Lawson in Battersea, central London, the court heard.
But Mr Gajjar said the defendants reacted angrily to this.
"They were absolutely in disagreement," he said.
"They felt it tied them to the company for the rest of their lives."
The court heard a series of text messages exchanged by Mr Gajjar and Francesca, including one where she complained her membership at private club Soho House had been cancelled.
"If they carry on doing stuff like this, I won't have any choice but to go to court," she wrote.
In another she said: "If one more small thing happens before we meet, they leave me no choice but going legal."
The Grillos, both of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, London, deny the charge against them.
It is alleged that, between January 1 2008 and December 31 2012, they committed fraud by abusing their positions as PAs by using a company credit card for personal gain.
Mr Saatchi is expected to give evidence later today.