Charles Saatchi accused his former wife Nigella Lawson of being “so off your head on drugs” that she allowed their personal assistants to spend whatever they liked.
Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo are due to go on trial accused of committing fraud while working as PAs to the celebrity couple.
Yesterday, ahead of the case being heard at Isleworth Crown Court in west London, Judge Robin Johnson read out an email sent from Saatchi to his former wife in which he accused Lawson and her 19-year-old daughter Cosima, known as Mimi, of taking drugs.
He also called her “Higella”, in apparent reference to her alleged drug habit.
“Of course now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you [and] Mimi were so off your heads on drugs that you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked and yes I believe every word they have said,” the email read.
“You Higella on the other hand poisoned your children with drugs and trashed their lives. Classy!”
The judge said the email could be reported, despite the trial not having yet started.
Lawson, the celebrity television chef, is expected to give evidence during the trial, which is due to last at least two weeks.
The Grillos are accused of defrauding Saatchi’s company, Conraco Partnership, out of up to £300,000 and using the money to buy designer clothes and first-class travel. They deny the allegations.
Judge Johnson said Saatchi was asked by police to explain what he meant in the message to his former wife.
The judge told the court that Saatchi said: “At the time of sending the email I was completely astounded by the scale of drug use set out in the statements [from the defendants].
“Nevertheless I did believe the allegations that I’m referring to in the email. I have been asked whether it referred to a belief that Nigella or the children permitted the sisters to spend whatever they liked. I can’t remember precisely what I had in mind. On reflection, I was simply speculating that the sisters would use this information to defend themselves.”
Defence barristers acting for the two defendants had wanted details of the alleged drug use by Lawson – who ended her ten-year marriage to Saatchi earlier this year – to be heard in the case.
The judge at first banned the allegations of drug abuse from coming out as part of the sisters’ defence, but yesterday he lifted the reporting restrictions.
During a hearing on 15 November, Anthony Metzer, representing Elisabetta Grillo, said: “The bad character application relates to Ms Lawson’s alleged taking of class A and class B drugs and her unauthorised use of prescription drugs.
“This is a matter highly relative to the defence because, in a nutshell, we respectfully submit she had a guilty secret from her husband. She did not want him to know about her use particularly of cocaine.
“Because the defendants were fully aware of her illicit drug use she consented to their expenditure on the understanding there would be no disclosure to her husband of her drug usage.
“It would not have been verbalised, but it would be along the lines of ‘You do this for me, I do that for you’.”
He added: “It was not the money being spent – Ms Lawson has her own money, she was independently wealthy – but what the money was being spent on. Her husband would not have condoned such use.
“They had a tacit understanding that they would not shop her to her husband or the authorities.
“When it all comes to a head through the companies’ accountant’s investigation [into their spending], Ms Lawson is backed into a corner and has to say she did not condone this expenditure.
“She knows that this would lead inexorably to a disclosure to her husband and the authorities about her drug use, which explains why she is saying she didn’t consent.
“This evidence is important because it gives an explanation as to why Ms Lawson appears to have changed her mind about the expenditure. Why she was consenting but has now changed her mind.”
The judge said: “I will allow questions of Ms Lawson and witnesses as to the alleged taking of prescription drugs and the taking of proscribed drugs. I allow each defendant, should she choose, to give evidence on this subject.”