Charles Saatchi arrives at Isleworth Crown Court in west London before he testified Friday that it was his ex-wife Nigella Lawson’s idea to let their personal assistants use company credit cards.
Nigella Lawson’s former hubby is “utterly heartbroken” over their divorce — and insists he never choked the sexy celebrity chef.
Millionaire art dealer Charles Saatchi said in emotional testimony Friday that the demise of his 10-year marriage to Lawson has left him devastated.
“I adore Nigella now,” Saatchi told a London jury. “I absolutely adore Nigella, and I’m brokenhearted to have lost her.”
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The Grillo sisters accused celebrity chef Nigella Lawson of abusing drugs for several years.
The high society couple’s marriage crumbled after Saatchi, 70, was photographed grabbing Lawson’s neck at a London restaurant in June. But Saatchi claimed the damning image seen round-the-world was misleading.
“I was not gripping, strangling or throttling her,” Saatchi insisted. “I was holding her head by the neck to make her focus. Can we be clear?”
The eyebrow-raising explanation came during Saatchi’s first day of testimony in the case involving the former couple’s assistants, who are accused of running up a $ 1.1 million tab on his corporate credit card during epic international shopping sprees.
Charles Saatchi testified he was trying to make Nigella Lawson ‘focus’ and that he was not ‘throttling her’ in the shocking photo that led many to label him a wife beater.
The assistants, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, say they lived high on the hog with Lawson’s approval — in exchange for keeping quiet about her alleged voracious drug habit.
Saatchi said he was actually “very fond” of the Grillo sisters, though he never saw any evidence of their claims that Lawson, 53, was constantly high on marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs.
The Grillo sisters are accused of running up a $ 1.1 million tab on Saatchi’s corporate credit card.
“Are you asking me whether I think that Nigella truly was off her head?” he asked. “Not for a second. Over this whole period she was writing books very successfully and appearing on television shows very successfully.”
“I personally have absolutely no knowledge that Nigella has ever taken a drug ever,” added Saatchi, who was wearing a navy blue suit over a white button-down shirt with no tie.
“I don’t like drugs at all and I didn’t like reading what the Grillos said was the culture in my house.”
Charles Saatchi before he testified at Isleworth Crown Court in west London on Friday.
Saatchi seemed miffed when he was confronted with an October email he had sent to his ex, which contained allegations of drug abuse.
In the missive, which was read to jurors Friday, Saatchi referred to Lawson as “Higella.”
“Of course now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you … were so off your head on drugs that you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked and yes I believe every word the Grillos have said, who after all only stole money,” read the scathing email.
Elisabetta Grillo (second from right) arrives in court on Friday. She and her sister, Francesca — the personal assistants of Lawson and Saatchi — are accused of using the millionaire art dealer’s corporate card to rip him off for $ 1.1 million.
“But I’m sure it was all great fun and now everything is perfect,” it continued. “Bravo, you have become a celebrity hostess on a global TV game show. And you got the pass you desired, free to heartily enjoy all the drugs you want, forever. Classy.”
Saatchi downplayed his use of the name “Higella,” saying it was merely a “silly pun.”
Alan Davidson/The Picture Library
Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson during happier times. They were married 2003 and divorced in 2013.
And he sounded exasperated when asked to explain why he sent the email.
“I’m utterly bereft that this private email to Nigella has come back to haunt us both,” Saatchi said.
“The stories that the Grillos were parading was that Nigella had a severe cocaine habit that stretched back a very long time for the entirety of our marriage.
‘I was holding her head by the neck to make her focus,’ Saatchi said in an explanation of the damning images.
“What I was speculating here was that the Grillos would use this as a defense.”
Saatchi also testified that he remained in the dark for years over the Grillos’ wild lifestyles.
When he found out, he initially downplayed the spending sprees.
The headline-grabbing trial has forced ABC to decide whether to abandon the popular celebrity chef, who once had a squeaky clean image.
“I rather foolishly thought I would overlook it as them getting carried away and being naughty,” he said.
Saatchi said he told the pair that they could pay back the money they owed and live rent-free in a house in central London that his wife used for filming.
Saatchi (left) is escorted Friday from a London court where he said his alleged attack on Lawson was mischaracterized.
But Lawson was not hot on the idea.
“She was very cross with me,” Saatchi testified. “And she said, ‘How could you do that? I would never have them in my house again.’”
The tycoon testified it was Lawson’s idea to give the high-flying assistants the cards that withdrew money from his company, Conarco Partnership.
Saatchi gave an eyebrow-raising explanation of what occurred at a London restaurant where he was photographed grabbing Lawson’s neck.
“I’m pretty certain the company pays off everything and bills me and I pay back the company for anything that’s personal,” Saatchi said.
The Grillos allegedly went on eye-popping shopping sprees in New York and Paris at luxury stores like Prada, Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior.
Francesca Grillo, 35, spent $ 105,000 in June 2012 alone — a shocking sum especially when compared to her $ 45,000 annual salary. Elisabetta Grillo, 41, who was paid $ 40,000 a year, dropped nearly $ 8,000 on designer duds that month.
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
Elisabetta (left) and Francesca Grillo, former assistants of the now-divorced couple, are facing fraud charges.
In total, the Grillo girls are accused of fraudulently spending more than $ 1 million of Saatchi’s money between 2008 and 2012.
The headline-grabbing trial has forced ABC to decide whether to abandon the popular celebrity chef whose once squeaky clean image has been tarnished by claims of rampant drug use. As her name has been dragged through the mud in court, Lawson has pretended as if the trial hasn’t even been happening.
Rather than responding to the allegations, Lawson has spent the past few days sending out sunny tweets about her favorite Thanksgiving recipes.
“This is the perfect recipe for Thanksgiving celebrators with leftover turkey,” she tweeted Friday, linking to a recipe for Mexican turkey salad. “Others can use chicken!”
Court was adjourned until Wednesday, when Lawson is expected to take the stand.