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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future