Nigella Lawson Allegedly Let Assistants Use Credit Cards to Cover Up Her Drug Use (Reports)

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Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi

The celebrity chef and ex-husband Charles Saatchi are back in the news as two sisters who worked for her are on trial for fraud.

LONDON -- Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and art baron Charles Saatchi, who were granted a preliminary divorce in July after pictures were published showing the millionaire art dealer holding his wife by the throat at a restaurant in Mayfair, are back in the headlines as Lawson's personal assistants face a fraud trial.

Sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo are accused of spending more than $1.1 million (£685,000) on the former celebrity couple's credit cards, including up to $485,000 (£300,000) on luxuries, including designer clothes and first-class air travel between 2008 and 2012, according to reports. But initial legal arguments on Tuesday indicated that the women may have used the couple's credit cards to cover up Lawson's drug use, according to various media reports of the trial.

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According to the BBC and reports in newspapers including The Telegraph and The Guardian, the two assistants were given the use of the credit cards in return for keeping Lawson's daily drug use secret from her husband.

Fox News picked up the drug revelations from the court papers filed online, while BSkyB, the U.K. satellite broadcaster in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, also headlined the revelations that Lawson, 53, allegedly used cocaine, marijuana and illegal prescription pills "daily" for more than a decade behind Saatchi’s back.

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Lawson is expected to provide evidence during the trial, which is expected to last at least two weeks.

The BBC said Anthony Metzer, who is representing the Italian sisters, told the court: "The defendants' case is that Nigella Lawson lied to her ex-husband about her drug use and about the expenditure that was incurred by the defendants, both expressly and implicitly, because she was fearful of Mr. Saatchi's reaction if he knew about the extent of the expenditure and drug use."

Metzer's comments that there was a "culture of secrecy" in Saatchi and Lawson's marriage made headlines in the U.K. and elsewhere on Wednesday.

The best-selling cookbook author and co-star of ABC's competitive-cooking show The Taste had a "tacit understanding" with the sisters that they could keep spending, as long as they did not "shop her" to Saatchi, reports said.