Ex-girlfriend of Brewdog boss James Watt cleared of criminal fraud

Emeli Ziem
Emeli Ziem was convicted of fraud in a civil case but acquitted of criminal charges

A criminal fraud prosecution brought by the boss of BrewDog has ended with a woman being acquitted of all charges.

James Watt, who co-founded the beer giant, brought a private prosecution against former girlfriend Emili Ziem for fraud and malicious communications.

It followed a civil court ruling last year that she fraudulently induced him into paying her £100,000 in Bitcoin.

Ms Ziem has now been cleared of criminal fraud after lawyers for Mr Watt offered no evidence.

They said their case against her was "overwhelming" but was being withdrawn due to the earlier fraud finding in the civil case in Scotland, her recent bankruptcy and personal factors.

In a statement James Watt said he had already won his case in the highest court in Scotland and no longer felt it was necessary to pursue it in a criminal court in England.

He said it was "time to move on" and focus on his business and family.

In a statement, Ms Ziem said the outcome was "just" because Mr Watt's accusations were "fictitious."

She added: "I don't think anyone involved was surprised by the result."

Last year Mr Watt, who co-founded Aberdeenshire-based Brewdog, was accused of inappropriate behaviour and abuse of power in the workplace by former staff. He has denied those allegations.

Mr Watt later claimed that Ms Ziem had conned him into paying her £100,000 in Bitcoin by pretending to help him investigate an alleged online conspiracy against him.

James Watt, Brewdog.
James Watt won a civil action against Ms Ziem after claiming he had been "harassed, defrauded and defamed".

Instead, he said she had been at the centre of the scheme herself, and had used online personas to spread lies about him.

Ms Ziem denied this but failed to respond to a civil court claim and, in her absence, a judge at the Court of Session found in Mr Watt's favour.

She was ordered to pay the £100,000 back and pay £600,000 in damages. She has since been declared bankrupt but says she hopes to overturn that.

Mr Watt subsequently pursued a rare private prosecution against Ms Ziem, which is when a criminal case is launched by a private individual, as opposed to a prosecuting authority.

She was charged with fraud, and malicious communications in a case that had been due to go to trial in January.

A statement from Ms Ziem's lawyers, Bark and Co, said that Ms Ziem had denied all the allegations and had been "determined to prove her innocence at trial."

The firm added: "A defence statement setting out the flaws in the case against her and her response to that case was prepared and served.

"Following a review of all of the available material, lawyers on behalf of Mr Watt offered no evidence and Ms Ziem was acquitted of all allegations."

Brewdog now has its own brewery in Ohio
Brewdog has expanded from a small operation in Fraserburgh to an international business with breweries around the world

Ms Ziem claims that during the process Mr Watt's lawyers offered a plea bargain to her in return for dropping the charges.

She said: "During this whole ordeal I was continuously offered that if I revealed information on those involved in making allegations against him public, to confirm a conspiracy against him, all proceedings against me would be ceased. I refused every time."

Ms Ziem said she has now instructed lawyers to challenge the ruling against her at the Court of Session, which she said was "given in my absence".

She said: "James created an imaginary win narrative and went on a false victory lap whilst I lived abroad."

James Watt said in a statement that having won the "landmark case" in the highest court in Scotland, he had decided not to pursue the criminal action against Ms Ziem in England.

He said: "I took this decision for a number of reasons. First, this matter has already been before the Scottish courts twice and I won.

"The Court of Session in Edinburgh found Ms Ziem committed a serious fraud against me involving lies & malicious communications last year and awarded me over £700,000.

"Then a few weeks ago, at Falkirk Sheriff Court Ms Ziem was made bankrupt despite challenging the Court of Session's decision. Second, given this, I know I will never receive a penny of that award, which I've always said would have gone to charity in full.

"On that basis, I no longer think pursuing a criminal trial is in anyone's interests, despite the overwhelming evidence. It's time to move forward, not back. I'm going to focus on those things that are most important in my life - my children and my business, rather than on further costly litigation."

Chris Daw KC, counsel for the private prosecutor, said: "I led the prosecution against Ms Ziem and made clear in court that the evidence against her was overwhelming and that the case was only being withdrawn due to the finding of fraud on the same facts in a Scottish court, her recent bankruptcy and personal factors.

"Any suggestion that Ms Ziem was declared 'innocent' is entirely false."