Charles Saatchi sent one of Nigella Lawson’s personal assistants out four times a week to buy copies of his own book to send it up the bestsellers list, a court was told on Friday.
Elisabetta Grillo, one of the PAs accused of defrauding Ms Lawson and her ex-husband, also told the jury that Ms Lawson allowed her children to smoke cannabis.
Ms Grillo said Mr Saatchi had ordered her to take taxis between bookshops across London and had his other PAs also buy copies of his book online.
Ms Grillo said that the multimillionaire art collector had given her £200 to cover the costs and she had also taken money out on a corporate credit card to buy more books. “Charles wrote a book and he wanted it high in the list and he wanted me to go to different stores like Waterstones,” Ms Grillo told the jury.
“He gave me £200 to buy copies of his book because he wanted it go up the book list so I took extra cash on the credit card to do that.
“All afternoon I went from east London to west London by taxi to buy books – it was my job. The next day I had to go again. Four times a week I had to buy Charles’s own books. I was not the only one but I was the only one to go around by taxi. The other girls had to buy the book on Amazon or book websites.”
On her second day of evidence to the trial at Isleworth Crown Court, Ms Grillo also admitted spending £69 on duty-free cigarettes for the couple’s children on a trip to New York. The prosecutor Jane Carpenter asked her: “What on earth were you thinking buying cigarettes for underage children?”
Ms Grillo replied: “If Nigella allows her children to smoke weed, who was I to…” At this point she was interrupted by Judge Robin Johnson who said: “Ms Lawson allowed them to smoke?”
Ms Grillo replied: “Yes.” The duty-free purchase was made in July 2010 when Ms Grillo accompanied the three children to New York.
Ms Lawson has two children – Mimi, now aged 19, and a child who cannot be named for legal reasons. Charles Saatchi has a 20-year-old daughter, Phoebe.
Earlier, Ms Grillo accused Ms Lawson, Mr Saatchi and three other PAs who worked for the couple of lying to the jury. She claimed she had remained silent until just days before the trial started about Ms Lawson’s alleged cocaine abuse out of “a remnant of sympathy for her”.
It was only after “mature reflection” and “for the fairness of the proceedings” that she decided to detail her allegations of Ms Lawson’s abuse of cocaine, cannabis and prescription drugs. Last week Ms Lawson admitted taking cocaine.
Ms Grillo, 41, and her sister, Francesca, 35, have pleaded not guilty to defrauding the Lawsons of £685,000 between 2008 and 2012. The case continues.