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The QCs Who Handed Eric Watson His Head

The Bitter Legal Fight That Consumed Millions And Sent Eric Watson to Pentonville Prison

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Photo: PhotoSport

The bitter and bitterly expensive legal battle between Sir Owen Glenn and Eric Watson has seen some expensive legal talent engaged in the battle. But it was one of Britain’s foremost litigators – Elizabeth Jones QC – who battled the Watson legal team to secure victory for Sir Owen Glenn and his Kea Investments Ltd.

Sir Owen is reported to have spent around $40 million in legal fees fighting the legal battle, using some of the UK’s best – and presumably most expensive – lawyers.

The major hearing in 2018 saw a judgment in favour of Sir Owen’s company, Kea Investments Ltd, requiring Watson to pay $NZ50 million over a disputed joint venture. The complex case involved an investment of around $NZ250 million in a property venture, Spartan Capital.

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Elizabeth Jones QC

In Sir Owen’s corner doing the heavy lifting during the 2018 litigation has been Elizabeth Jones QC, of Searle Court Chambers. A highly regarded litigator with civil fraud expertise, her Chambers profile describes the earlier victory against Eric Watson, noting:

[2018] EWHC 2016 Glenn v Watson: 3 month fraud trial preceded by months of interlocutory applications. The court set aside contracts whereby £129m was transferred, on the grounds of deceit, breach of fiduciary duty and bribery. See also [2017] 4 W.L.R. 48 on waiver of duties of confidence or privilege and [2018] EWHC Ch 2483 for an important decision on equitable interest.

A deputy High Court judge in the Chancery Division she is vastly experienced in a range of civil actions, including a significant involvement in the music industry.

She is regarded not only as a highly persuasive advocate, but also someone who has the intellectual ability to master large scale, multi-jurisdictional actions such as the Glenn v. Watson basttle.

Instructed by the ‘royal’ law firm Farrer & Co, who represent the Royal Family among others, including a major royal battle LawFuel reported upon earlier this year, she has pursued the Crown jewels that stood between the two kiwi businessmen.

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Justin Higgo QC

Also instructed has been Justin Higgo QC of Searle Court, regarded as an ‘outstanding, brilliant lawyer’ and another domestic and international fraud specialist.

For Watson

Eric Watson sought help from large commercial chambers One Essex Court, featuring 110 barristers, and his case was lead by commercial litigator John McCaughran QC, a commercial litigation and arbitration specialist.

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John McCaughran QC

McCaughran is regarded as a top ‘oil and gas’ silk, his most recent appearance being on behalf of British Gas in a major action against Shell Oil and others.

He was supported by fellow One Essex barrister, commercial barrister Hannah Brown QC.

However by the time the 2020 case came again before Justice Nugee Watson had changed silks to Tom Grant QC, of Maitland Chambers.

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Tom Grant QC

Grant, regarded by one commentator as a “fearsome opponent”, is a highly experienced fraud and negligence specialist with a wealth of experience involving often high profile cases.

At a pre-sentencing hearing last week he said prison would be a “truly appalling” experience for his client, that there were covid-19 cases among the prisoners at Pentonville and that Watson himself had tested positive for the virus.

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