Nicholas Johnson QC
Year of Call:
Nick Johnson QC specialises in complex financial and business crime disputes, together with cross-over regulatory and civil work. He is ranked at Silk Band 1 for Financial Crime by Chambers & Partners 2020, described as “A truly impressive silk with very strong attention to detail…assiduous in his preparation…especially good in international fraud cases.” He is ranked as a Leading Silk in the Legal 500 2020, praised in particular for his compelling advocacy, strategic skill and affinity with clients – “Exceptional on his feet and displays excellent client care skills.”
Nick has developed a particular expertise in bribery and corruption cases, including large scale multi-jurisdictional investigations. In addition to acting as leading counsel in many high-profile criminal trials, companies and individuals retain him for advice on corporate compliance in areas such as bribery, tax evasion and money laundering, and for advice and representation regarding deferred prosecution agreements and negotiated settlements, economic sanctions, jurisdictional issues, privilege, search, production and freezing orders, SARs, civil fraud and civil recovery, often at an early stage. He also acts for specialist prosecution agencies, often from a pre-charge stage. In addition to acting in many of the major trials and disputes in this area in the UK, Nick has experience of corporate investigations brought by the Department of Justice and SEC in the United States and similar litigation in Europe and the Middle East. For over 10 years he has represented a former Financial Director of De Puy/J&J in a multinational corporate bribery investigation. He represented the former Managing Director of Skansen Interiors Ltd, the first ever jury trial of the corporate failure to prevent bribery offence.
Nick developed his skills and specialisms over many years of conducting general criminal trials, from organised drugs conspiracies to gangland murder, alongside carousel, pharmaceutical and property fraud. Through this, he developed expertise in private prosecutions, extradition, asylum, inquests, professional discipline, cybercrime, the protection of and rewards for whistle-blowers, environmental crime and the criminal and regulatory aspects of cryptocurrencies.
Nick became a Queen’s Counsel in 2016. He is a member of the Bar Council International Committee, within which he leads the North America Working Group. He is Direct Access accredited and, in appropriate circumstances, is happy to accept instructions on this basis.
Nick began to specialise in financial crime cases from about 2001, acting for a director in a property fraud case, when he successfully argued on an interim appeal that the reverse burden of proof under s.206 of the Insolvency Act was incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998. Over the years, he began to act more frequently as leading counsel in the full range of fraud cases, appearing in major tax, carousel, pharmaceutical, boiler room, diversion, financial markets and property frauds, prosecuted by agencies such as the SFO, HMRC, MHRA and Trading Standards.
Many such cases had an international dimension and Nick first became involved in multi-jurisdictional work in 2008, when he was instructed to act for a former Vice President of Finance in relation to a large corporate bribery case, investigated civilly and criminally in three separate jurisdictions. More recently, he acted for a Managing Director in the first ever bribery case in the UK involving a corporate conviction under section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010. He is currently instructed by the Specialist Fraud Division of the CPS to prosecute an alleged £75m landfill tax fraud perpetrated by waste management traders. He is also instructed to act for an individual in the SFO investigation into Tata Steel (UK) Ltd.
Nick advises companies and individuals with regard to business crime, often in relation to corporate compliance, bribery, tax evasion, money laundering, whistle-blowers, cryptocurrency, production orders, freezing orders and jurisdictional issues, advice which can make a considerable difference.
Nick contributes to a number of publications and specialist conferences in the area of Business Crime, including as a panel speaker at the ABA White Collar Crime Conference and a Bar Council representative speaker at delegations in New York and Saint Petersburg. He is also a contributing editor to the Lloyds Law Reports: Financial Crime.
SFO/DOJ/Greece v X and Others.
2008-Ongoing – Multi-jurisdictional investigation into international bribery and corruption by former Johnson & Johnson executives, hospitals and surgeons. 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 Finance, said to be the architect of the acquisition model hiding the bribes. Nick was part of a team which successfully negotiated with the SFO, DOJ, SEC and FBI so that no charges were brought either in the UK or the US. Civil and criminal proceedings before the Fraud Court in Athens are ongoing. Complex issues of double jeopardy, admissibility, disclosure and international comity.
R v Y and Others.
2014-2017 – 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 in Dubai and the UK, in matters of extradition, pre-charge negotiation and trial.
Nick is retained by the Specialist Fraud Division of the CPS as leading counsel for the prosecution in an alleged £75m landfill tax fraud perpetrated by organised crime groups who have infiltrated the UK waste disposal industry.
R v Skansen Interiors Ltd and Others
Nick acted for the MD of Skansen, a London-based fit out and refurbishment contractor, facing allegations of paying bribes to secure refurbishment contracts in London, worth £6m. This was the first ever jury trial in the UK of a company charged with a s.7 “failure to prevent” Bribery Act corporate offence. Abuse of process, DPA issues and the statutory “adequate procedures” defence.
R v A&B.
2017-2018 – Nick secured an acquittal for a company director alleged to have been engaged in a £9m HMRC cheat, running a cut-throat defence. The case concerned false trade in PPI leads, with money circulating offshore, including the UAE. The case required a thorough understanding of complex international banking, corporate structures and IT evidence.
R (MOD Fraud) v X International.
2014-Ongoing – Corporate corruption investigation by the fraud department at the Ministry of Defence, into a company who provides services to active troop operations in the Middle East.
R v Y and Others.
2010-11 – Successful defence of company director in largest ever investigation into pharmaceutical counterfeiting in the EU, with fake medicines originating in China. MHRA’s largest prosecution to date, 5-month trial, required extensive knowledge of pharmaceutical regulations and industry, international trade, grey markets and fraud.
R v A and Others
8-handed HMRC MTIC carousel fraud, where £20m tax was evaded. Nick was leading counsel for the alleged “orchestrator” of the fraudulent trades. There were 49,000 pages of used material in a trial which lasted 6 months, followed by lengthy POCA proceedings.
R v Y and Others.
2010 Leading counsel for D1 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.
SFO v Tata Steel (UK) Ltd.
Nick has extensive experience both acting for and prosecuting and taking enforcement action against regulated professionals. This includes criminal trials, disciplinary proceedings before regulators, inquests and employment/internal disciplinary investigations and hearings. He also provides advice and strategy with regard to regulatory compliance. For example, he represents:
- Both senior and rank and file police officers, when facing criminal trials for alleged fraud or corruption, police disciplinary proceedings or at Art 2 jury inquests where police conduct is called into question.
- Companies and company officers in relation to inquests, prosecutions for a wide range of offences from breach of health & safety and environmental legislation to corporate and gross negligent manslaughter and regulatory compliance in relation to cryptocurrency, sanctions etc.
- Financial Services professionals, such as accountants.
- Legal services professionals.
- R v P and Others – Nick acted for the company and its chief executive in a 6 week trial alleging gross negligent manslaughter and health and safety offences arising from a fatal crushing accident in an industrial baling machine.
- R v T and Others.2013-4 – Leading counsel 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.
- Re L Ltd – Ongoing. Nick acts for a UK company providing vehicle contracts in the Middle East, advising them on an ongoing basis as to corporate compliance issues.
- Re X Ltd & Y Inc. 2017-Ongoing – Working alongside US colleagues in advising a UK company and US parent company regarding EU and US sanctions over business activities on behalf of the Iranian government.
- R v A and Others 2019-Ongoing. Nick acts for a former solicitor charged with an extensive fraud targeting elderly members of the public to purchase worthless trusts with a view to protecting their assets from care home costs.
- Operation X – Nick is retained by the Specialist Fraud Division of the CPS as leading counsel for the prosecution in an alleged £75m landfill tax fraud perpetrated by organised crime groups who have infiltrated the UK waste disposal industry. This includes close liaison with the Environment Agency and enforcement action over many years.
- Re Company Y – Advising in relation to regulatory compliance in a number of jurisdictions, including the US, UK, Isle of Man, Malta, Russia/CIS, in relation to proposed trade in cryptocurrency and derivatives.
When acting in financial and business crime cases, particularly those involving different jurisdictions, Nick had to address a number of extradition and asylum issues, whether to or from the UK and concerning the US, Russia and the CIS, the EU and the Middle East. He has developed a separate practice in these areas, often acting for high net worth individuals and their families.
For example, in 2013 he acted for a Russian client called M in Part 2 Extradition Act proceedings regarding an alleged high profile murder in Russia of a police officer, who had allegedly raped a child. The case involved ECHR objections relating to Russian prison conditions, evidence obtained through torture and unfair trial procedures. Nick was required to travel to Moscow and liaised with Russian lawyers and authorities.
Appointments & Memberships
- Bar Council International Committee (2018)
- Silk (2016)
- Category 4 Prosecutor (2008)
- Specialist lists for Complex Crime Unit and Fraud Unit
- Criminal Bar Association
- American Bar Association
- Bar Council North American Group
- International Bar Association
- Fraud Lawyers Association
Nick Johnson QC is regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and holds a current practising certificate. If you are not satisfied with the service provided, please click here.
Chambers & Partners UK Bar guide has ranked Nick as Band 1 for Financial Crime since 2012.
“A first choice for complex criminal matters.” “He’s very hard-working, and is one of the finest advocates you’ve ever seen – his ability to cross-examine is excellent.” “A truly impressive silk with very strong attention to detail. He is assiduous in his preparation and he’s especially good in international fraud cases.”
Chambers and Partners 2020
“Exceptional on his feet and displays excellent client care skills.”
The Legal 500 2020
“He is exceptionally good and his pedigree in fraud is second to none.” “He’s extremely thorough, has tremendous attention to detail and is extremely talented.”
Chambers and Partners 2019
“Recent work includes high-profile murder trials.”
The Legal 500 2018/19
“He is an exceptional advocate who controls a courtroom.”
Chambers and Partners 2018
“He has an excellent courtroom manner and affinity with clients.”
The Legal 500 2017
“Lots of people say they can do white-collar crime, but he is a real expert in it.” “He took silk recently, which was deserved definitely. He is very busy but always on top of everything.”
Chambers and Partners 2017
“A fantastic courtroom advocate.”
The Legal 500 2016
“A class act.”
Chambers and Partners 2016
“His ability to digest and retain information is phenomenal.”
The Legal 500 2015
“He is tactically phenomenal; he’s fantastically focused on each and every case.” “His attention to detail is particularly impressive.”
Chambers and Partners 2014
“A pleasingly able and personable operator with plenty of gravitas, who is especially good at cross examination.”
Chambers and Partners 2012