John Black QC

  • Year of QC 1998
  • Year of Call 1975


Over many years John Black has maintained a distinctive specialist practice split between both prosecuting, defending and acting for corporates in very high-profile, complex and serious domestic and international criminal cases, which has led in recent times to him being heavily in demand to appear in multi-million pound corporate fraud, money laundering, corruption and murder cases in particular. He has also led in many civil fraud and tax cases in the Tax Tribunal and in the Chancery Division. John is particularly well known for his advocacy and advisory work in matters involving civil and criminal fraud, corruption and business crime, and the crossover between them in all types of courts and tribunals. He is able to undertake direct access instructions.

In recent years John has developed an international practice, which includes the provision of strategic and tactical advice to corporate and private clients in relation to civil and criminal proceedings. His current caseload includes clients in the United Kingdom, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Monaco. Over the last three years John has been appearing in extradition and corruption proceedings in the BVI. John is also instructed in several civil and criminal cases in the UK, as well as inquests.

John is particularly well known for his advocacy and advisory work in matters involving civil and criminal fraud, corruption and business crime, and the crossover between them in all types of courts and tribunals.  He combines his expert tactical advice, renowned advocacy skills, consummate case preparation and approachable style for every case, making him highly recommended and sought after by all who instruct him.

Throughout his career John has appeared in many murder cases in behalf of the prosecution and defence. These include high profile contract killings, gangland murders and multiple killings. John’s experience involves the use of accomplices, scientific evidence, jury tampering and complications, and specialised phone and cell site analysis. He also has experience of terrorist-related murders.  Over the years he has appeared in over 200 murder cases.

Current instructions include advising clients in the UK and Monaco in relation to criminal and civil fraud proceedings, as well as prosecuting corruption and murder cases in the BVI. John is also engaged in inquests in the UK and as an arbitrator in the Dubai International Arbitration Centre.

Recent instructions included advising and successfully representing a defendant in a multi-million pound corruption prosecution; representing the successful appellant individual in an appeal in the Tax Tribunal; and he has defended in two highly complex confiscation cases, prosecuted a UN Development Programme corruption case, represented the appellant in a civil case concerning the registration of classic cars, and defended a very high-profile traveller murder case.

Since taking silk, John has further developed his heavyweight practice in complex criminal work and civil work, especially those involving serious fraud and financial crime, cases in the Tax Tribunal, regulatory offences, murder, bribery and corruption, serious sexual offences, people-trafficking, large-scale drugs importations and multi-million pound confiscation proceedings.  Many of John’s cases have involved notorious defendants and attracted high levels of media publicity, and he enjoys a very successful track record of appellate advocacy.

John has developed particular expertise in dealing with cases involving issues of complex disclosure, jury tampering, accomplice evidence, offenders/defendants assisting in investigations and prosecutions, and complicated mental and psychological topics. 

John is regularly sought to provide highly effective and specialist advice on whether civil and criminal proceedings should be brought, evidence sufficiency and admissibility of evidence plus witness and defendant immunity.  He is increasingly instructed in cases of judicial review and inquests, and often represents professional third parties in connection with their disclosure obligations and legal professional privilege in criminal and civil cases.

In all cases John is renowned for his careful and conscientious approach to every case, his ability to master and marshal large volumes of documentation, his witness handling skills, and his receptive management of teams of instructing lawyers, junior counsel and officers.  John is also highly adept at dealing with cases involving cultural sensitivities, international practice and procedure, and defendants and witnesses from ethnic minority backgrounds.

John is also very familiar in dealing with the complicated issues arising for both the defence and prosecution in confiscation hearings, having appeared in many cases concerning the various confiscation regimes of the Drug Trafficking and Offences Act 1986, the Criminal Justice Act 1988, the Drug Trafficking Act 1994, and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

John also specialises in extradition matters and in the legal aspects of the registration of Classic cars and their authenticity.

Recent Cases


In the last four years, John secured the acquittal at trial of a female defendant in a SFO prosecution in relation to allegedly fraudulent purchase agreements (R v Alexander & others); was instructed by the Attorney-General of the BVI on behalf of the US Government in a series of complex extradition hearings relating to a high-profile historic drug trafficking case, where he appeared in both the BVI Magistrates’ Court and the High Court of Justice (Government of the USA v Hodge & Harrigan); successfully represented the appellant individual in the Tax Tribunal to overturn a substantial penalty (Pearson v HMRC); acted for a private individual in a civil action against the DVLA relating to the registration of classic cars, where the Court of Appeal’s judgment provides a helpful analysis of the three tests applied when establishing whether a tortious duty of care exists in cases involving pure economic loss (Seddon v the DVLA [2019] EWCA Civ 14); prosecuted a substantial alleged police corruption trial in the High Court of the BVI (R v Prevost and others); advised a private client, who resides in Monaco, in relation to an alleged civil corruption case; advised the Director of Public Prosecutions of the BVI in relation to a series of linked murders with a view to prosecuting the trials; and advised a family of the deceased in relation to inquest proceedings in Manchester. John remains a co-arbitrator in the Dubai International Arbitration Centre in a commercial case.


During this period John’s defence work included defending in an SFO prosecution in relation to allegedly fraudulent purchase agreements (R v Alexander & others), a high-profile traveller murder (R v Mosley) and corporate manslaughter and tax evasion fraud involving the motor transport industry (R v McMurray); multi-million pound confiscation proceedings arising out of a VAT fraud, involving complex issues including overseas trusts law in relation to a Panamanian trust, where a prosecution application for a £250 million confiscation order was defeated, resulting in an order for under £750,000 (R v Bostock); and substantial confiscation proceedings arising out of an MTIC fraud, which included complex matrimonial and jurisdictional issues (R v Amritanand).  

John was also instructed in judicial review proceedings (for example Re Kibbler, in an application to review the CPS's decision not to proceed with a private prosecution); in inquest proceedings, for example representing a family of an elderly lady and successfully demonstrating that the death was not the result of natural causes (Re Jocelyn Jeffrey); and represented corporates in litigation arising out of criminal trials.
For the prosecution, John successfully prosecuted Operation Aristo, a corruption prosecution concerning bribes being paid by a pharmaceutical company to secure United Nations Development Programme contracts; the high-profile trial of Sir Alan Davies (the headmaster of Copeland School) in relation to illegal cover-up of alleged large-scale fraud on the London Borough of Brent; re-trials of defendants (including a former police officer) charged with major international cocaine importations and involving complex issues of disclosure (Operation Coronary); and offences of direct and indirect tax evasion arising from organised crime, also involving issues of jury protection and tampering, and a successful application for an SCPO (R v Sayers and others (Operation Stirling)), where the case was investigated by the Northumbrian police, and John managed and oversaw an extensive review of disclosure (including probe material) that has now become a template for all operations involving the deployment and use of probes within Northumbria Police. 

Notable Earlier Cases

Following many years of work in major MTIC and diversion fraud cases, acting for both HM Customs & Excise and for the defence, John was instructed by both the Crown Prosecution Service and the Solicitor for HMRC in a series of direct and indirect tax cases in the Crown Court and the Tax Tribunal. Examples in the Crown Court include prosecuting Harry Redknapp and Milan Mandaric for cheating the public revenue, together with the successful substantial prosecutions of direct and indirect tax evasion in Operation Stirling (2008-09) and indirect tax evasion/MTIC fraud in Operation Ghast (2010-11).  In addition he was engaged in a series of high-profile MTIC cases litigated in the Tax Tribunal.  He acted for the Commissioners for HMRC in the Upper Tier Tribunal in Megantic Services Ltd v Commissioners for HMRC (FTC/35/2010) where the admissibility of FCIB evidence in the tribunals was upheld; in addition he successfully acted for the Commissioners in Mynt v Commissioners for HMRC (LON/2007/0962) and Sceptre Services Ltd v Commissioners for HMRC (LON/2008/1227).  

John also acted in the extensive appellate litigation in the case of Brayfal Ltd v Commissioners for HMRC, appearing twice in the First Tier Tax Tribunal, then in the Upper Tier Tribunal and the Chancery Division.   

R v Jacobs (2012) – defending in murder case involving issues of insanity and diminished responsibility, where the defendant was accused of murdering his wife.

Mynt v Commissioners for HMRC (2010-11) – appearing in the Tax Tribunal in MTIC fraud case (LON/2007/0962).

Sceptre Services Ltd v Commissioners for HMRC (2010-11) - appearing in the Tax Tribunal in MTIC fraud case (LON/2008/1227).

R v Samra, Hayre and others (Operation Ghast) (2009-11) – acting in a multi-million pound indirect tax fraud/MTIC and money laundering case involving 17 defendants.

R v Coe (Operation Stirling) (2009) – appearing for the CPS in second trial of this major police operation, prosecuting offences of direct and indirect tax evasion arising from organised crime.

R v D’Angibou (Operation Fulcrum) (2008-09) – instructed by the RCPO for a re-trial of a major diversion fraud.

R v Frost and others [2008] EWCA Crim 3206 – instructed on behalf of RCPO to respond to a series of appeals against conviction and sentence in a tobacco importation fraud, having not prosecuted the trials. The appeals against conviction were dismissed.

Brayfal Ltd v Commissioners for HMRC (2007-11) - appearing for HMRC in First Tier Tax Tribunal, Upper Tier Tribunal and the Chancery Division in MTIC fraud case (MAN/2007/0490 and TC00410).

R v Harris and others (Operation Mandoor) (2006/07) – prosecuting (for SOCA) large-scale cocaine importation (over 60kgs) from South America into the UK involving the exporters of the drug from South America, organisers of the importation into the UK, launderers of the money and their criminal associates.

R v Whitworth and others (Operation Athletic) (2006) – prosecuting (for RCPO) inward diversion fraud from continental Europe into the UK, involving both alcohol and tobacco. It was alleged that the main conspirators were able to provide the facility of a group of corrupt customs officers at Ramsgate port who were prepared to facilitate the fraud. There were 12 defendants, including three Customs officers.

R v Baybasin and others (Operation Omega) (2005/06) – prosecuting alleged head of the Turkish heroin crime syndicate in the UK. This was also the first case where a Financial Reporting Order was made.

R v Faruq and others (Operation Iowa) (2005) – prosecuting (for CPS Casework Directorate) a conspiracy to contravene the Immigration Act by bringing relatives into the UK under false pretences and then falsely claiming asylum as a prelude to falsely claiming benefits from government departments and local authorities. The main witness for the Crown was an ex-Cabinet minister and serving MP. Confiscation, compensation and costs exceeded £2million.

R v Uddin and others (Operation Venison) (2005) - prosecuting (for RCPO) a £100 million MTIC fraud as part of replacement prosecution team and as second Queen’s Counsel, particular role in the case was to deal with the vast amount of PII material, and notwithstanding the months of pre-trial preparation, there were also over 25 days of PII hearings before a High Court judge.

R v Cox and others (Operation Raider) (2003/4) – prosecuting (for CPS Casework Directorate) a case of people trafficking and conspiracy to defraud, with economic loss to major superstores and including the prosecution of a solicitor. Substantial confiscation orders made.

R v Carter (2000) – defending police officer accused of stealing drugs from criminal and selling them; police corruption case involving alleged accomplices who were former police officers.

R v Allcock (1997) – prosecuting (for CPS Casework Directorate) senior tax inspector convicted of corruption by providing favourable treatment to individuals being investigated for tax evasion