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Sisters in fraud case were 'part of family,' Saatchi says

LONDON, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Two personal assistants accused of using the credit cards of art dealer Charles Saatchi were thought a "part of the family," he told a London court Friday.

Sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo allegedly used Saatchi's corporate credit cards to buy designer clothes and accessories, spending over 685,000 pounds ($1,119,934) at the expense of Saatchi and his ex-wife, television chef Nigella Lawson, prosecutors in London's Isleworth Crown Court said.

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The sisters are being tried for fraud.

"I was very fond of them. They were part of the family. Nigella was fond of them, too, and the children adored them," Saatchi, 70, said in court.

The sisters admit making the transactions, but say Lawson was typically high on drugs and unaware of what she permitted them to spend, the London Evening Standard reported.

Francesca Grillo, 35, is alleged to have bought goods valued at 580,000 pounds ($948,266), and Elisabetta Grillo's total was estimated to be about 105,000 pounds ($171,668).

Saatchi and Lawson ended their 10-year marriage with an acrimonious divorce earlier this year, the newspaper said.

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