Nigella Lawson was a daily drug user, ex-assistants claim in fraud case

nigella-lawson-drug-allegations-gi.jpgTV chef Nigella Lawson allowed her former assistants to rack up nearly half a million dollars in credit card charges so they'd keep quiet about her drug abuse, the attorney for the assistants claimed in court this week.

Sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo are accused of defrauding Lawson (ABC's "The Taste") and her ex-husband, Charles Saatchi, of 300,000 pounds (about $480,000) during the 10 years they worked for the couple.

Their defense is that they had a "tacit understanding" with Lawson that they could use Saatchi's corporate credit cards so long as they hid Lawson's drug use from her husband, according to several reports from the U.K. The Grillos claim Lawson "habitually took cocaine" and also abused prescription drugs and marijuana in the family's home.

Lawyers for Saatchi, meanwhile, say he was unaware of Lawson's alleged drug use during their marriage and, in a letter sent to Lawson in October that was read in court Wednesday, threatened to sue her for the money if she didn't testify at the Grillos' trial.

"The claimants [including Saatchi] are also concerned that Ms. Lawson gave the defendants permission to use the accounts for personal purposes whilst under the influence of drugs and/or that Ms Lawson has no credible recollection of events as a result of drug abuse," the letter reads.

An e-mail from Saatchi to Lawson -- the couple went through a short but ugly divorce in the summer -- also read in court was more blunt: "Of course now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you were so off your head on drugs you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked," Saatchi wrote. "... And yes I believe every word they have said."

The prosecutor in the case called the drug claims "totally scurrilous" and noted it took the defense more than a year to mention them after the Grillos were arrested.

Season 2 of "The Taste" is set to premiere Jan. 2 on ABC. The network says it has wrapped filming and will air as scheduled.
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