Nigella Lawson 'signed exclusive deal to appear on Oprah Winfrey show', court hears

Elisabetta Grillo, 41, and her sister Francesca, 35, each deny a single count of fraud

'Domestic Goddess’ author and celebrity television chef Nigella Lawson had signed an exclusive deal to be interviewed by American chat show host Oprah Winfrey, it was alleged in court today.

The claim came from defence barrister Karina Arden during the trial of two of Miss Lawson and Mr Saatchi's former personal assistants who are accused of abusing their positions by spending £695,000 on credit cards belonging to the celebrity couple.

Elisabetta Grillo, 41, and her sister Francesca, 35, each deny a single count of fraud.

The defence barrister told jurors that Miss Lawson, who divorced Charles Saatchi earlier this year, would appear on the high profile show next month as she cross-examined the food writer's personal assistant, and member of so-called 'Team Cupcake', Anzelle Wasserman.

"You know, don't you, that Miss Lawson has signed an exclusive agreement with Oprah Winfrey in January?" Ms Arden asked.

"That's not correct," Ms Wasserman replied, but did not elaborate on what details were or were not accurate.

Ms Wasserman, who began giving evidence in the trial of two of Miss Lawson and Mr Saatchi's former personal assistants yesterday, was also accused of conniving with her boss ahead of the trial.

"You I suggest have come to court partly to save, as you perceive it, Miss Lawson's reputation," Ms Arden said.

"I'm here to give witness evidence about the trial of the Grillos because I worked for them for so long, and that is why I'm here," Ms Wasserman answered.

Jurors at Isleworth Crown Court also heard further details of the celebrity couple's spending habits from Ms Wasserman.

Ms Wasserman was taken through a list of foreign trips that Francesca went on with Miss Lawson and Mr Saatchi's daughters from their previous marriages.

Between February 2008 and August 2011, the defendant accompanied the teenagers as they travelled around the world, staying in luxury hotels in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Amsterdam and Paris, often making several visits each year.

Ms Arden, who is representing Francesca Grillo, read out a text message her client sent to Ms Wasserman in August 2010 when she chaperoned one of the girls and her friends on holiday to the South of France.

In the message, sent from St Tropez, the defendant asked Ms Wasserman for a favour regarding Mr Saatchi's finance director, Rahul Gajjar, as the trip was turning out be "super expensive".

"Could you please ask Rahul to make sure my card is being paid off so I have enough credit over here?

"I have to take cash out every day for cabs and clubs and I'm worried I won't have enough," Francesca wrote.

The court heard that Ms Wasserman texted back: "I've just spoken to Rahul. He's going to speak to the bank to tell them you're in St Tropez but he says your card doesn't have a limit so it shouldn't be a problem."

Asked why Francesca's credit card, tied to Mr Saatchi's account with private bank Coutts, had no limit on it when all the other personal assistants' cards did, Ms Wasserman said she did not know.

She told the court: "I don't know what the situation was between her and Rahul, it was nothing to do with me. I was being the middle man."

Ms Wasserman, who has continued to work for Miss Lawson since her marriage broke down as her "principal PA" and member of "Team Cupcake", was also questioned about a Donna Karen coat she wore to court.

Ms Arden asked if Miss Lawson had bought it for her.

"Well actually it wasn't brand new when it was given to me," she said. "It was Miss Lawson's coat and I wore it once when it was cold and she said it looked so much nicer on me that I could keep it."

Ms Arden asked Ms Wasserman if during the Grillos time in the household there had been a motto: "It was your job to be the bitch?"

"No I've never heard that," Ms Wasserman replied.

More details of Miss Lawson and Mr Saatchi's spending during their 10-year marriage were read out to the court during evidence from another member of "Team Cupcake", Zoe Wales.

Jurors heard that Miss Lawson spent £54,552 at Donna Karen between 2008 and 2012, while more than £7,500 went on a custom made sofa.

There was also a bill for £1,368 at Annabel's Wine Cellar along with £2,250 spent at Shi Cashmere, which Ms Wales said was for clothes for Miss Lawson.

The details were given as Ms Wales, who has worked as a personal assistant to Miss Lawson for nearly 13 years since her marriage to the late John Diamond, was questioned about the statements for the credit cards she was loaned.

They also included a £900 transaction for membership at club Soho House in December 2010, which Ms Wales said was a gift from Miss Lawson to Francesca.

Ms Wales, who said she was given three credit cards and a debit card by the couple, said she was told they were to buy "household items principally".

Asked by prosecutor Jane Carpenter if she ever used them for other things, Ms Wales told the court: "Only if I was given explicit instruction that I was allowed to do so".

She agreed that Miss Lawson was a very generous employer as she spoke of how she allowed her to bring her baby to work and buy necessities for the infant.

No mention of drugs-taking allegations against Miss Lawson were made during today's evidence.

As she took to the witness box herself last week, Miss Lawson spoke of suffering "intimate terrorism" at the hands of her multi-millionaire ex-husband, describing him as a "brilliant, but brutal man".

She revealed details of her past drug use, saying she would rather be "honest and ashamed" than "bullied with lies", and admitted taking cocaine with Mr Diamond when he found out he had terminal cancer, and on another occasion in July 2010 during her troubled marriage to Mr Saatchi.

But the 53-year-old, who also admitted smoking cannabis in the last year of her marriage to the art gallery owner, said the idea that she is a "drug addict or habitual user of cocaine is absolutely ridiculous".

She accused her ex-husband of "peddling" stories about her alleged drug habit, including that he was checking her nose for cocaine when he was photographed gripping her throat outside Scott's restaurant in central London in June.

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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