Meghan's designer accused of using furlough staff to revamp homes

Meghan Markle’s £56,000 engagement dress designer is accused of using furlough workers to revamp two French Riviera homes that she shares with billionaire boyfriend

  • Ms Ralph allegedly told Ralph & Russo furloughed employees to buy furniture
  • She told them to ensure wallpaper was put up at properties in the French Riviera
  • Last night, she denied the claims and said the staff were actually friends

The glamorous designer of Meghan Markle’s £56,000 engagement dress has been accused of instructing staff who were on furlough to redecorate two luxury homes that she shares with her billionaire boyfriend.

Tamara Ralph allegedly told two furloughed employees at her fashion label Ralph & Russo to buy furniture and ensure wallpaper was put up at the properties in the French Riviera, according to new documents released by the High Court.

Ms Ralph, 40, last night denied the claims and said the staff were actually friends who were doing her a ‘favour’ in a ‘private capacity’.

Tamara Ralph (left) allegedly told two furloughed employees at her fashion label Ralph & Russo to buy furniture and ensure wallpaper was put up at the properties in the French Riviera, according to new documents released by the High Court

One of Britain’s most celebrated luxury fashion houses, Ralph & Russo designed stunning haute couture gowns for stars including Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow.

But earlier this year The Mail on Sunday revealed how Ms Ralph and fellow Australian and former partner Michael Russo had been accused of plundering the fashion house to fund their jet-set lifestyles. 

We also reported allegations that Ralph & Russo’s pension pot was raided before it plunged into administration in March.

Ms Ralph, who is being sued by the company via its administrators for £20.8 million in damages, has strenuously denied the allegations.

Now, in a newly filed legal document, the company claims staff were instructed to redecorate an apartment near Monte Carlo’s famous casino and marina that Ms Ralph shares with businessman boyfriend Bhanu Choudhrie, as well as a villa used by the couple in Cannes.

‘Such work included… projects to design headboards, assisting with the purchase of bespoke furniture and organising wallpaper choice and installation,’ the document claims.

The company said it understood the work was carried out by Francesco Baiera, head of retail design at Ralph & Russo, while he was on furlough.

Mr Baiera ‘liaised with various suppliers, designers and retailers for the purposes of the fitting out of the said properties,’ it is claimed.

The glamorous designer of Meghan Markle’s £56,000 engagement dress has been accused of instructing staff who were on furlough to redecorate two luxury homes that she shares with her billionaire boyfriend

The work was also allegedly co-ordinated by Terence Sparks, Ms Ralph’s personal assistant, who was also on furlough.

Under the £69 billion furlough programme, officially known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Government helped to pay the wages for 11.7 million jobs.

A source close to the company last night said that if the claims were true it was a ‘total disgrace’ if furloughed staff were instructed to redecorate the properties.

But Ms Ralph’s spokesman said: ‘The individuals who were on furlough helped Ms Ralph as friends as a favour to her and in a private capacity and, as such, there was nothing remotely improper in doing so.’

Ms Ralph, 40, last night denied the claims and said the staff were actually friends who were doing her a ‘favour’ in a ‘private capacity’

The administrators have accused Ms Ralph of spending thousands of pounds of the company’s money on luxury hotels, flights, lingerie, beauty treatments and hair appointments.

When the firm collapsed, Ms Ralph owed £195,436 in directors’ loans, which she has repaid, while Mr Russo owed £2.6 million. Ms Ralph says the loans were not used to extract money out of the company but as a ‘proper accounting mechanism’.

Ms Ralph last month enjoyed a lavish 40th birthday party, thrown for her by Mr Choudhrie at Monaco’s five-star Hotel de Paris. 

Ms Ralph was shown on Instagram cutting a huge cake and dancing to a performance by Ellie Goulding.

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