Nick Johnson QC

Call 1994
Silk 2016

“He is an exceptional advocate and a highly experienced fraud lawyer.”

Chambers and Partners 2021
Photo of Nick Johnson QC


Nick Johnson is a Queen’s Counsel barrister in independent practice with a focus on financial and corporate crime, associated regulatory work and other serious and organised crime. He is currently ranked Silk Band 1 for both Crime and Financial Crime in Chambers & Partners 2021 and Tier 1 for Crime in the Legal 500 2021.

Nick has specialised in criminal fraud and money laundering cases since 2001 and appeared as leading counsel in some of the largest fraud jury trials in the UK, from tax to pharmaceutical and medical devices to financial markets and property frauds, often with an international dimension. He has been described in the legal directories over the years as “tactically phenomenal”, “fantastically focussed on each and every case”, “a fantastic courtroom advocate” and “pleasingly personable”.

Nick has developed a particular expertise in bribery and corruption cases, including large scale multi-jurisdictional investigations. Companies and individuals retain him, both advising on preventative measures such as Bribery Act compliance and corporate governance, and for wider strategic advice in civil fraud, economic sanctions, mutual assistance, DPAs and civil recovery, often at an early stage. Nick has experience of corporate investigations brought by the Department of Justice and SEC in the United States and investigations and litigation in Europe and the Middle East. He has worked closely alongside US, Canadian, Russian, Greek, Swiss and UAE lawyers. Since 2008, he has acted for a former Vice President, Finance of a large medical devices company, in criminal prosecutions in the UK, the US and now Greece, relating to alleged wholesale bribery of surgeons and fraud against the state.

When acting in such cases with international aspects, Nick had to address a number of extradition and asylum issues and has developed a separate practice in these areas. In 2013 he acted for a Russian client in Part 2 Extradition Act proceedings regarding a high-profile murder in Russia of a police officer, who had allegedly raped a child. The case involved ECHR objections relating to prison conditions, evidence obtained through torture and unfair trial procedures. Nick travelled to Moscow and liaised with Russian lawyers and Prosecuting authorities. While there, he spoke on the Rule of Law as a guest of the Moscow Advocates Club. Nick is a member of the American and International Bar Associations, the Fraud Lawyers Association and the Bar Council International Committee. In 2012, he was chosen as a Bar Council Representative for their inaugural bespoke business trip to the US legal market, over 5 days in New York. Since 2013, he has attended the annual ABA White Collar Crime Conference both as a delegate and Faculty member, in 2018 speaking on an International Panel about responses to whistleblowing in different jurisdictions. Nick is a regular contributor to online publications and journals. He speaks conversational Japanese and undertakes advocacy training at the University of York.

Alongside his financial crime specialism, Nick continues to act for individuals charged with serious and organised criminal offences, from murder and firearms cases to serious sexual offences and drugs conspiracies. Since taking silk in 2016, Nick has received instructions to lead significant and high- profile murder trials, from prosecuting joint enterprise drugs related murders, to defending in the double gangland assassination of Paul Massey and John Kinsella in 2018/19. He defended in the case of the teenage girl who killed 7-year-old Katie Rough in York. He was instructed in a protracted police investigation into alleged sexual abuse/misconduct in a public office by senior clergy. He also regularly advises and acts in the prosecution and defence of private prosecutions.

Nick is also experienced in cybercrime, cyber security and the criminal and regulatory aspects of cryptocurrencies.

In addition, Nick has developed his experience in quasi-criminal work:

  • Extradition & Asylum – including re the US, Russian Federation, CIS
  • Police and other professional disciplinary proceedings
  • Public law, judicial review and appellate work
  • Health and Safety enforcement
  • Inquests – often involving death while in custody and health and safety aspects
  • Civil Recovery Orders in the UK and foreign jurisdictions, including the provisions under the new Criminal Finances Act
  • DPAs in the UK and the US
  • AML measures
  • Sanctions
  • Civil fraud

Criminal Cases

SFO/DOJ/Greece v. X and Others. 2008-Ongoing – Multi-jurisdictional investigation into alleged corporate bribery of surgeons to use Johnson & Johnson medical devices. J&J has paid $70m US and £5m UK settlements and entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement. Nick is sole UK counsel for a former VP of Finance, alleged to have drafted an acquisition model concealing the bribes. Charges in the UK and US were not pursued after extensive negotiation with SFO/DOJ/FBI/SEC. Criminal proceedings before Fraud Court in Athens are ongoing. There are highly complex issues of double jeopardy, disclosure and international comity in concurrent and lengthy multi-jurisdictional criminal proceedings.

R v. B & F – Nick acted in 2018 for a company director alleged to have been engaged in a £9m HMRC cheat. This case concerned false carousel trading in PPI leads, with complex international corporate structures and money flows, a case which required expertise in banking and IT. Running a cut-throat defence in a trial lasting 5-6 weeks at Leeds Crown Court.

R v. Fellows & Boyle – This was one of the highest profile murder cases in 2018. Nick acted for the first defendant, who was alleged to be a professional assassin, using an Uzi sub-machine gun and a Webley revolver to shoot dead a Manchester and then a Liverpool gangland boss, in the context of multiple shootings and organised violence. The case involved the use of Encrochat and similar encrypted technologies. 5-week trial in Liverpool Crown Court.

R v Skansen Ineriors & Others – 2014-18 – This was the first ever jury trial in the UK of a company charged with a s.7 Bribery Act offence. Nick acted for the MD of Skansen Interiors, a London-based fit out and refurbishment contractor, facing allegations of paying bribes to secure refurbishment contracts worth £6m. Proceedings at Southwark Crown Court, addressing abuse of process issues and the “adequate procedures” defence.

Operation Nosedive – Ongoing – Nick prosecutes as QC leading two juniors in this landfill tax fraud investigation, the largest ever of its type – £75m allegedly cheated from the public revenue over a 2 ½ year period. Case involves different UK regions, international money routes, sensitive material, pre-charge negotiations, related civil proceedings, related criminal investigations.

R v. X (a minor) – Nick was instructed as leading QC to defend in this high-profile murder case, where 7-yead-old Katie Rough was killed by a 15-year-old girl, who suffocated her, then inflicted knife wounds. The case demanded extremely sensitive handling. Working closely with child forensic psychiatrists and psychologists, the defence team established diminished responsibility on the grounds of emerging schizotypal personality disorder. Leeds Crown Court 2017.

R v. H and Others. 2014-Ongoing – International fraud and money laundering investigation. £12m said to have been obtained via a diversion fraud from UK public bodies including NHS Trusts. Nick acted for a Dubai based company director and represented him in Dubai and the UK, advising as to the criminal law in both jurisdictions and extradition. A large case running to 50,000 pages of material.

R (MOD Fraud) v K International. 2014-Ongoing – Corporate corruption investigation by the fraud department of the Ministry of Defence, into a company who provides services to active troop operations in the Middle East. Nick acts for company directors, alleged to have paid bribes in return for inside information relating to the tendering process for securing large construction contracts.

R v. I & A – 2017/8 – Nick prosecuted in this murder/manslaughter case at Manchester Crown Court, two youths charged with stabbing a 15 year old boy.

R v. Stubbs and Others. 2016-7 – Prosecution of joint enterprise murder, involving three defendants who targeted, chased down and then shot their victim in the back – included post-Jogee joint enterprise issues, diminished responsibility arising from effects of a prior head injury and admissibility concerning PAS material.

R v. Ali and Others. 2016 – 7 – Prosecution of multiple defendants for murder/manslaughter/death by driving, arising from an attack upon a homeless man, who was then driven over while prone in the road. Complex issues of causation.

R v. Russell. 2016 – Defence leader for a man serving life for the attempted murder and rape of an elderly woman in her 80s, then charged with a like offence. It was a “cold case” where a modern investigation anaylsed historical evidence, also involving a very challenging client with extreme psychopathy. Heard by the Recorder of London at the Old Bailey.

Russian Federation v. Moskvitin. 2013-4 – Part 2 Extradition Act proceedings regarding an alleged high profile murder of a police officer who had allegedly raped a child. Case involved human rights objections relating to prison conditions, evidence obtained through torture and unfair trial procedures. Required travel to Moscow and liaison with Russian lawyers and authorities.

R v. Wright. 2013 – Instructed by the specialist Specialist Fraud Division of the CPS to prosecute a high profile charity fraud case of Kevin Wright, who set up charitable appeals around the UK, purportedly for children with cancer in urgent need of specialist treatment in the USA when, in reality, he had no intention of arranging for the children to be treated there and, instead, used the money for his own business and personal interests. The defendant had dishonestly appropriated just short of £1m, including £171,500 stolen from an appeal for the benefit of his own son. Included calling live link medical evidence from New York.

R v. Taylor. 2013 – Leading Junior acting for a former detective constable, successful defence to an allegation of a large scale conspiracy to defraud in a multi handed trial lasting 4 months. Alleged fraud spanned multiple business offering debt recovery, debt elimination and escort services in Spain and the UK.

R v. K & Others. 2012 – 2015 –  Leading junior counsel in one of the UK’s largest VHCC MTIC mobile telephone frauds, acting for one of the main Trial 1 defendants, trial listed for 5 months.

R v. Carbert & Others. 2011 – Successful defence of senior manager in 3 month trial relating to property fraud, s.9 Fraud Act 2006, statutory construction and application of the identification principle.

R v. Potter & Others. 2011 – Leading Junior for main defendant in 4 month boiler room SFO fraud, cut-throat defence, 40,000 plus pages, cross-examination of 50 witnesses, extensive expert scientific evidence relating to biofuels and bio-plastics, accountancy evidence.

Inquest re AM (a minor). 2011 – Acted for family in jury inquest concerning the death of a toddler at a nursery, choking incident, cross examination of pathologists, issues of standards of nursery care, ambulance practices and training.

R v. Kemp. 2010-11 – Successful defence of company director in largest ever investigation into pharmaceutical counterfeiting in the EU. MHRA’s largest prosecution to date, 5 month trial, required extensive knowledge of pharmaceutical regulations and industry, international aspects.

R v. Lee. 2010 – Leading Junior defending in “Ritz hotel fraud” – successful defence of alleged conspiracy to defraud by falsely representing that the Ritz hotel in London could be sold. Expert issues relating to the commercial property industry, international aspects.

R v Young-Morgan. 2010 – Successful defence relating to allegation of fraudulent operation of a solicitors’ practice. Fitness to plead and stand trial issues, expert psychiatric evidence.

R v. Anderson. 2007 – Conspiracy to murder (contract shooting), instructed after initial conviction, resurrected a successful appeal against conviction, against original pros team. Then leading junior in re-trial which resulted in charge being discontinued.

R v. PFE & Others. Acted for company and chief executive in 6 week trial of gross negligent manslaughter arising from crushing accident in an industrial baling machine.

R v. Charlton. Prosecuted an 8 week murder – female killed partner during sexual role-play, complicated scientific, psychiatric and IT issues, defence of slow-burn provocation and traumatic amnesia.

Appellate Level Cases of Note:

R v. Zaboli & Ors [2010] EWCA Crim1273. – Successful appeal in conspiracy to blackmail.

R v. Fielding [2010] EWCA Crim 427. Successful appeal in conspiracy to defraud, Court of Appeal referring to the “attractive and persuasive argument”.

R (Green) v. Police Complaints Authority & Oths (House of Lords) [2004] 1 WLR 725, UKHL6. Black youth driven over during police chase and surveillance operation, subsequent claim of deliberate racist attack by an agent of the State, issues as to the impact of Arts 2 & 3 ECHR upon a victim’s rights of disclosure and effective involvement in subsequent investigations into police driver, who I acted for. Established important principles governing a victim’s rights in various proceedings.

R v. DM [2008] EWCA Crim 1544. Successful preparatory hearing interim appeal in an armed robbery case, concerning the scope of previous acquittal evidence as bad character and the application in this context of s.101(3) of the CJA 2003.

R v. Anderson [2006] EWCA Crim 1506.  Leading junior in successful appeal against conviction in conspiracy to murder (contract killing), issue as to limits upon legitimate cross-examination of credibility, prosecution offered no evidence on main charge at re- trial.

A-Gs Refs (139, 140, 141) of 2006 [2007] EWCA Crim 463. Appropriate levels of sentencing for large-scale importation of cannabis.

R v. Anderson [2006]. EWCA Crim 1506 – Leading junior in successful appeal against conviction in conspiracy to murder (contract killing), issue as to limits upon legitimate cross-examination of credibility, prosecution offered no evidence on main charge at re- trial.

A-Gs Refs (139, 140, 141) of 2006 [2007]. EWCA Crim 463 – appropriate levels of sentencing for large-scale importation of cannabis.

R v. Hill [2004] EWCA Crim 1855 – successful appeal in conspiracy to defraud.

R (Wardle) v. Crown Court at Leeds – [2001] 2 WLR 865 (House of Lords) – elderly man attacked and killed during a burglary, prosecution changed charge from murder to manslaughter after unjustifiable delay, issues of custody time limits, abuse of process, statutory construction, Art 5 ECHR.

R (P(A) and Others) v. Leeds Youth Court [2001]. 5 Arch News 1 DC – ambit of abuse jurisdiction in magistrates’ court, advance disclosure.

R v. Carass Times 21.1.02 CA. Statutory construction of reverse burden of proof s.206 of the Insolvency Act in the light of the Human Rights Act.