Nicholas Johnson QC
Year of Call:
Nick Johnson QC is a recognised expert in complex financial and business crime disputes, together with a cross-over regulatory and civil practice. He is ranked at Silk Band 1 for Financial Crime by Chambers & Partners 2021, described as “an exceptional advocate and a highly experienced fraud lawyer” and as a Leading Silk for Business & Regulatory Crime by the Legal 500 2021, which praises him as, “a phenomenal advocate, both in his written and oral presentation… A master tactician with a wonderful court presence, he manages the team expertly – simply the real deal.” He is joint head of the OTC Business Crime & Regulatory Group.
Nick has developed a specialism in corporate bribery and corruption cases, including cross-border investigations and trials. In addition to the UK, Nick has experience of investigations brought by the DOJ and SEC in the United States and similar litigation in Europe and the Middle East. His practice includes cross-over work such as civil fraud, civil recovery and corporate regulation. For example, he recently acted in an LCIA arbitration worth over £115m, between two parties in a former Soviet Republic involving high value commodities, and currently acts for the former CEO of a private bank in a tortious deceit claim. He also has considerable experience in areas such as tax evasion, AML, corporate compliance, private prosecutions, DPAs, economic sanctions, cross-jurisdictional issues, privilege, search, production and freezing orders, providing strategic advice and representation to corporate clients and senior managers alike. Nick is also retained by specialist prosecution agencies, often at a pre-charge stage. He is appointed to the SFO QC Panel.
Nick developed his advocacy skills and specialisms over many years conducting general criminal trials, from organised drugs conspiracies to gangland murder, alongside carousel, pharmaceutical, property and other fraud cases. His practice has included jury inquests, professional discipline, cybercrime, cryptocurrencies, the protection of and rewards for whistle-blowers and environmental crime.
When acting in 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.
Nick was appointed 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 a contributing author on Lissack & Horlick on Bribery and Corruption (LexisNexis 3rd ed.2020). 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, frequently acting as leading counsel in the full range of criminal 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 VP Finance in relation to a corporate fraud and bribery case, investigated civilly and criminally in three jurisdictions, currently ongoing in Greece. He represented a company director in the first ever UK jury trial involving the corporate section 7 charge of failing to prevent bribery. He is currently instructed to act for a former director in the SFO investigation into Tata Steel (UK) Ltd. Nick advises companies and individuals with regard to business crime and related cross-over issues, often at an early stage 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 recently Saint Petersburg. He is a contributing author on Lissack & Horlick on Bribery and Corruption (LexisNexis 3rd ed.2020). 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, local distributors and surgeons. J&J has paid $70m US and £5m UK settlements and entered into US DPA. Nick is sole UK counsel for a former VP Finance, alleged to be the architect of the acquisition model hiding the bribes. He was part of an international team which successfully negotiated with the SFO, DOJ and SEC so that no charges were brought either in the UK or the US. Civil and criminal proceedings before the Court of Appeal in Athens are ongoing. The case involves complex issues of double jeopardy, admissibility, disclosure and international comity.
SFO v Tata Steel (UK) Ltd.
Ongoing – SFO investigation into suspected manipulation and falsification of testing and certification data in respect of steel for specialised applications.
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. Nick represents the Company and its MD.
R v B and Others
Ongoing – Acting for a former accountant in an alleged £266m money laundering case, one of the largest ever in the UK, across three jurisdictions. 4-month trial due to commence 2022.
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. Involved abuse of process, DPA issues and the statutory “adequate procedures” defence.
2014-2020 Nick was retained by the CPS SFD as lead QC in an alleged £75m landfill tax fraud perpetrated by OCGs which have infiltrated the UK waste disposal industry.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Nick can bring the value of his considerable experience of fraud work to assist corporate and business clients in cross-over areas such as commercial disputes involving allegations of criminal activity, civil recovery and civil fraud. Since joining OTC, he has teamed up with specialist junior counsel to act in cases involving shareholder disputes, international arbitration and tortious deceit in the context of international banking transactions.
- K v B Ongoing – Acting for Claimant in High Court £10m+ civil claim for deceit/tortious interference, concerning private banking transactions in Azerbaijan, claims of corruption, asylum and jurisdictional issues.
- Re C Ltd 2020 – Advising a corporate as to potential criminal offences under the Fraud Act and private prosecution in the context of commercial disputes between directors and shareholders.
- M Ltd 2020 – LCIA Rules international arbitration, worth over £115m, high value commodities in former Soviet Republic, questions of construction of guarantee clauses.
Appointments & Memberships
- SFO QC Panel (2020)
- Bar Council International Committee (2018), North America Group Lead (2019)
- Silk (2016)
- International Bar Association
- Fraud Lawyers Association
- Inner Temple
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.
Areas of Law
Chambers & Partners UK Bar guide has ranked Nick as Band 1 for Financial Crime since 2012.
“He is an exceptional advocate and a highly experienced fraud lawyer.” Financial Crime, Chambers and Partners 2021
“He is absolutely brilliant and really good on his feet – a very gifted advocate.” Crime, Chambers and Partners 2021
“He is a phenomenal advocate, both in his written and oral presentation. I would wish him to represent me if I were in trouble-the best guarantee of a favourable outcome.” Business Crime, Legal 500 2021
“A master tactician with a wonderful court presence, he manages the team expertly – simply the real deal.” Crime, Legal 500 2021
“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