Nigella Lawson has been accused of treating her former assistants ''worse than Filipino slaves''.
Elisabetta Grillo, who is currently being tried for fraud along with her sister Francesca after spending around £685,000 on a credit card belonging to the TV chef and her ex-husband Charles Saatchi, allegedly made the claim after being confronted about her spending spree, a court heard yesterday (29.11.13).
According to Charles' finance director Rahul Gajjar the 41-year-old former employee became ''agitated'' when the art dealer outlined a contract for monthly repayments to be made by her and her sister.
The Italian siblings initially co-operated with Charles, who offered them the opportunity to continue working for the couple and live rent-free in Nigella's flat in Battersea, south west London, while they paid off their debt.
However, after being presented with the contract - which would require Elisabetta to pay £1,000-a-month and Francesca to pay £250-a-month - the sisters hit back, insisting Nigella, 53, had given them permission to spend as they pleased in exchange for their silence about her alleged drug abuse.
Gajjar told Isleworth Crown Court: ''After Charles' proposal, Lisa got quite agitated. They both weren't very happy
''[Elisabetta] was absolutely against it and I remember a reference to, 'We are being treated worse than Filipino slaves'. She got very upset.
''They felt they'd be tied to the company for the rest of their lives.''
The court heard how Elisabetta spent, on average, £48,000 a month, while her sister clocked up credit card bills of £28,000.
Gajjar revealed that the ex-assistant's bill for June 2012 totalled £64,336.97, which she spent on shopping trips to luxury fashion stores such as Miu Miu and Prada, flights to New York and stays in luxury hotels including the Ritz in Paris, France.