Sisters' spending on Saatchi credit cards was not checked, trial told

It wasn't our job to get involved, says finance director

Charles Saatchi's accountants did not scrutinise the credit cards used by his and Nigella Lawson's personal assistants, because it was not their job to get involved in the household expenditure, a court has heard.

Mr Saatchi's finance director, Rahul Gajjar, said the finance team did not check the statements for Coutts credit cards given to PAs "line by line" because it was not for them to comment on what was being spent.

Mr Gajjar, who first gave evidence to Isleworth Crown Court last week, said today that it was not his job to comment on "how much dry cleaning" or "how much potatoes" the house was purchasing.

The finance director previously told the court that former personal assistants Elisabetta Grillo, 41, and her sister Francesca, 35, became agitated when he wrote to them about their alleged use of the celebrity couple's credit cards to buy £685,000-worth of luxury goods for themselves.

The sisters are accused of committing fraud by abusing their positions by using a company credit card for personal gain.

Prosecutors claim the Italian sisters lived the "high life", spending the money on designer clothes and handbags from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.

The Grillo sisters, of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, deny the charge against them.

Today, Mr Gajjar told the court that the Coutts credit cards were issued to personal assistants after Mr Saatchi decided he wanted to take care of all household spending using them.

The finance director said that, previously, Barclays credit cards, with limits of £750 per month, were issued to four personal assistants in July 2006, including Francesca Grillo but not her sister, in case they had to undertake any business spending.

Those statements were scrutinised to see if any business spending could be offset on tax and profits, he said, but it soon emerged that there was "hardly any" so they were later stopped.

"The Barclays cards were not for personal expenditure, they were set up in case there was any business expenditure," he said.

Mr Gajjar said the total expenditure for the period between July 2006 and September 2007 on the Barclays cards was £15,131.

The court heard that some of the cards may have had their limits increased to £1,250, but Mr Gajjar said it was decided that there was nothing in them that could be offset against taxable profits, so it was considered a "fruitless exercise" and the cards were stopped.

But he said the Coutts cards were for "home staff" to use for spending relating to the household.

Asked whether the statements for these cards were scrutinised, he said: "It was not our role, my role or my staff's role to scrutinise the expenditure and forecast and budget on home life.

"It's not our duty to comment on how much dry cleaning, how much potatoes the house was purchasing, it's details we just couldn't get into."

Asked by Anthony Metzer QC, representing Elizabetta Grillo, sometimes referred to as Lisa, if he would have been concerned if a large sum - £1 million, for example - had been spent on a "home card", Mr Gajjar told the court: "If Charles wanted to buy an expensive gift for Nigella, it would not be my job to say 'You could have got it cheaper on eBay'."

When questioned whether Mr Saatchi was aware that the cards were not being scrutinised, he said: "He is well aware that we have never scrutinised his home expenses.

"It was not a job for the finance department to go through, scrutinise, forecast and budget on home expenditure.

"The finance team are there to look after business."

He added: "It was for the home to consider these expenses. There was trust in the staff that were given these cards.

"Lisa and Francesca were part of the family and they had trust."

Asked if he was not interested in the expenditure on the cards, he told the court: "I would have been interested in the total numbers, realising that there is some serious expenditure going on and Charles would have an issue with that.

"We looked at the summaries, we would look through the summaries, see what the general spending would be, but in terms of the detail we wouldn't get involved in 'What's this for? What's that for?'

"The summaries were checked, the individual expenditures were not scrutinised."

Pressed by Mr Metzer on the issue, Mr Gajjar said: "It was not for me to comment. It was not my job."

Giving evidence at the trial last week, Ms Lawson spoke of suffering "intimate terrorism" at the hands of ex-husband Mr Saatchi, describing him as a "brilliant, but brutal man".

The celebrity cook revealed details of her past drug use, saying she would rather be "honest and ashamed" than "bullied with lies", and admitted taking cocaine with her late husband, John 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 multi-millionaire art gallery owner, said the idea that she is a "drug addict or habitual user of cocaine is absolutely ridiculous".

She denied hiding the Class A drug in the box containing her late husband's wedding rings, and said she would never risk leaving her children as "orphans" by taking drugs.

Ms Lawson has also accused her multi-millionaire 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.

Additional reporting PA

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform