£100,000 con

BrewDog boss victim of social media scam

James Watt was trolled by Emili Ziem

BrewDog chief executive James Watt has won a legal battle against an ex-girlfriend turned social media troll who scammed him out of £100,000.

At Edinburgh’s Court of Session Lord Brailsford ruled in his favour and ordered Emili Ziem to repay him the money, plus more than £500,000 in expenses  after she pretended to help him nail the trolls behind a vendetta which accused him of harassing women and criminality.

In reality she was responsible for spreading the lies herself from false social media accounts.

Ziem had contacted Mr Watt on Instagram in 2020 which led to the pair meeting up several times and messaging regularly on WhatsApp.

A year later, some of Mr Watt’s Instagram friends received direct messages about him from an account under the name Laura Keller, stating that he had “misled” women. Some of the allegations accused him of criminality which he denied in court.

Ziem said she would befriend people she believed could be involved in the vendetta for a fee of £25,000. She eventually claimed to have identified four culprits and Mr Watt paid up.

Mr Watt became suspicious and paid private Investigator Michael Roberts £236,000 to help find the truth behind Ziem. He sent the Laura Keller account a private message including a “tripWire” link to identify where the message was opened.

The judge said that Ziem set up fake social media pages to spread damaging online rumours about the brewery boss.

In a post on LinkedIn, Mr Watt explained: “Ziem said she could help me identify the people responsible for spreading false and malicious lies about me via troll accounts and asked for payment to do so – I was desperate to stop this horrific abuse, so I paid up.

“What we now know, and the court has found, is that she was actually one of the perpetrators and was operating an extremely active troll account against me as part of a dedicated network looking to ‘take James down’ (her words).

“She gave me knowingly false information with the sole intention of deceiving me into agreeing to pay her – she was, in fact, a key part of a network involved in a campaign to do as much damage to me and my business as possible, spreading false and defamatory information with the objective of destroying me personally and damaging our business.“

In his judgement Lord Brailsford said: “The contract or other arrangement by which the pursuer agreed to transfer to the defender the Bitcoin assets was induced by fraudulent misrepresentation made by the defender.”

The ruling continued that Ziem must transfer the Bitcoin back to Mr Watt – who intends to give it to charity.

On LinkedIn, he wrote: “This person, whom the court has now found to be a fraud, was also a source for the BBC attack on BrewDog, which had such a demoralising impact on our 2,800 people – this is worth remembering while the BBC continues to advertise its attacks on us across its multiple platforms.

“This has been a massive distraction for me with all the challenges we face as a business in a struggling economy, but I hope you understand that it was incumbent on me to defend my reputation in the face of relentless hostility.“

The Disclosure documentary made a number of claims about Mr Watt’s conduct with employees and abuses of power. The BBC has since deleted some of the claims.

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