Nigella's new US series may be hit by drugs claims
NIGELLA Lawson's recipe books top bestseller lists and her cookery programmes are watched by millions, but her latest hit US TV show could be derailed by events in court.
Nigella (53) is expected to give evidence in the trial of two of her former personal assistants accused of defrauding her and ex-husband Charles Saatchi to the tune of £685,000.
And allegations made by Saatchi that the the TV chef has a serious drug habit are already attracting attention with the US media speculating she could fall foul of the country's tough visa regulations.
The next series of ABC's The Taste, which she co-hosts with three other chefs, has already been filmed and is scheduled to return in January.
US rules mean someone can be denied a visa if they have "not been convicted" or even "not admitted" a drugs offence.
A failure to get a visa would stop Lawson publicising the show in the US and throw her role on any future shows into doubt.
It remains to be seen how the case will affect her popularity in Britain and Ireland, where Channel 4 has said its plans for a version of the show will go ahead and fans have rallied to declare their support for Team Nigella on Twitter.
Meanwhile, a London court yesterday heard the two personal assistants to Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson complained they were "being treated worse than Filipino slaves" when they were confronted over their alleged spending sprees on the couple's credit cards.
Rahul Gajjar, finance director for wealthy art dealer Saatchi, told jurors that Elisabetta Grillo (41) made the claim after he wrote to her and her sister about their alleged use of the celebrity couple's credit cards to buy £685,000-worth of luxury goods for themselves.
Mr Gajjar said he did not tell his boss and his ex-wife about his suspicions as he did not want to bother them with "trivial matters".
Mr Gajjar said while Francesca's average monthly spend was £48,000 and Elisabetta's was £28,000, Saatchi's other aides spent a maximum of £8,000.
Asked by prosecutor Jane Carpenter why he did not go to Saatchi and Lawson with his suspicions straight away, Mr Gajjar said: "It was on the back burner.
"We were dealing with more corporate matters – more serious corporate matters Mr Gajjar told jurors that at first Elisabetta and co-defendant Francesca (35), were open and apologetic about their spending spree.
But he said that after he wrote them each a letter outlining how they would pay off their debt which they were expected to sign, they became "agitated".
He added: "Lisa was against the proposal and I remember a reference to 'We're being treated worse than Filipino slaves'."
The case continues.