Two former personal assistants to Charles Saatchi and his ex-wife Nigella Lawson have been cleared of fraud.
The jury at Isleworth Crown Court, west London, found Italian sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo not guilty of a single count of fraud each.
It was alleged that between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2012, the women committed fraud by abusing their positions as PAs, using a company credit card for personal gain – and were accused of spending more than £685,000 on themselves.
Elisabetta, 41, sometimes referred to in court as Lisa, and Francesca, 35, both of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, had been accused of living the ‘high life’.
The court heard they used credit cards loaned to them by the TV cook and her ex-husband Saatchi to buy designer goods from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.
Francesca was accused of spending the largest amount on herself – a sum of £580,000. But the sisters insisted all of their purchases had been authorised.
And in a sensational twist their defence lawyers introduced allegations of drug-taking by Nigella and marital strife involving the celebrity couple.
It was claimed by the defence that there was a culture of secrecy within the high-profile couple’s marriage and that the Grillo sisters were aware of Nigella’s alleged drug use, while Saatchi was not.
The defence claimed that Elisabetta’s knowledge of Nigella’s supposed drug use materially affected the TV cook’s attitude towards her spending.
After the three-week trial, the jury of seven men and five women rejected the prosecution’s claims that the purchases on the cards had been unauthorised.