zarif khan

Year of Call 1996


Door Tenant

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Areas of Practice

  • Criminal Defence
  • Private Prosecution
  • Business Crime & Financial Services


  • Public Access Accredited
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) / Mediator

Professional Memberships

  • Lincoln’s Inn


  • Urdu
  • Punjabi


Zarif Khan is an established practitioner with over 22 years experience at the Criminal Bar, gained from the spectrum of a varied defence practice and being involved in some of the Countries most high profile cases. He has an excellent reputation with Judges and legal practitioners as an agile and hard-working defence advocate, experienced in dealing with serious crimes of terrorism, murder, serious sexual offences, people trafficking, fraud, money laundering (POCA Proceedings) and drugs.

Zarif is relied upon both as leading and junior counsel, who can get to the heart of the case with clear logical thinking, an abundance of common sense and good judgment to dissect and simplify matters to the core.

The diversity of Zarif’s practise has enabled him to develop expertise in a wide range of matters in criminal law as well as related areas of law. He is, therefore, able to effectively handle cases with a grounded understanding of how for example human rights, immigration and family law provisions affect and can be intertwined into criminal matters. Zarif’s ability to unravel and demystify the interaction of complex and overlapping issues has gained him a robust reputation within the profession and for being able to clearly communicate the same. In addition, Zarif’s personable style as an advocate and his enthusiasm to do the best for his client shine through in every case. As a result, Zarif has developed excellent relationships with both lay and professional clients, which have continued to garner recommendations by those he has represented.

Due to Zarif’s diligence and down to earth approach his practice reaches the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. He has worked on some of the Country’s most complex, interesting as well as legally challenging cases. As a result of which, he has gained widespread recognition with solicitors for being able to take on some of the most difficult and challenging clients. This inevitably means that Zarif is brought in to calm, reassure and advise the lay client and conduct their case, with the sereneness that is required.

Frequently, Zarif has been instructed in cases where ever-evolving modes of technology play a significant part in the organisation of criminal activities and consequently the evidence presented. His extensive knowledge of the ways in which evidence involving technology including cell-site, IP addresses, Facebook, and other social media and App. based communication platforms are used, means that his clients are fully appraised of the way that this evidence affects their case and the challenges that can be made in relation to the same.

Disclosure deserves a special mention as Zarif has been described by others as having an ‘old fashioned’ attitude towards disclosure, this he takes as a compliment since it is probably the single most important issue in a case but many lawyers don’t have the understanding, experience or tenacity to ask the right questions from the relevant authorities to untangle their case and get the right result for their client. Since the police & CPS are the gatekeepers of any disclosure and therefore a self-interest to limit the same to the defence. It is therefore important that with Zarif’s knowledge and tenacity that they do not withhold material which may ultimately lead to an acquittal. Over the years this has been the single most important issue, which has lead to the right result for the accused.

The most recent example of Zarif’s success following issues of non-disclosure was in representing a Russian billionaire heiress which received extensive media coverage here in the UK, as well as abroad, on an appeal against a conviction from the Magistrates Court. The conviction was notably overturned despite a full confession in the police station interview.

Currently, Zarif is advising in matters for a variety of international high-net-worth individuals (HNWI), relating to issues such as money laundering, POCA proceedings as well as general advice in relation to quasi-criminal issues. For example, Zarif is overseeing a contractual dispute and the claim arising thereof between an individual who introduced the Big Bus Company in Dubai.  Zarif is now more regularly relied upon by corporations to act in an advisory capacity, with regard to matters approaching litigation in commercial and civil disputes.  This is complemented by Zarif being a qualified ADR mediator.

Notable Cases


Operation SOLEUS  | Woolwich Crown Court – Offences under Section 5 and 2 of The Terrorism Act 2006 of disseminating terrorist publications and preparing terrorist acts. YA, along with his brother and two others contacted a terrorist fixer, bought tickets to travel to Turkey and packed camping gear and other weapons ready for the trip on Valentine’s Day 2017. The four of them chatted on encrypted messaging App. Telegram, under a group called ‘Peace’, about how to join the terrorist group throughout 2016.  A substantial amount of electronic media/data was recovered in the investigation on a number of different platforms.  One of the gang was reported to the authorities by a close friend as he prepared to leave the UK. His school friend ‘noted his increased interest in Islam in December 2016 when he asked about getting electronic visas to travel to Iran or Syria so he could ‘practise his religion’. The Government ‘Prevent’ programme was also deployed who referred the teenager to the authorities.

Operation Decan | Central Criminal Court – Defendant accused of developing a mobile bomb as well as attempting to extract the poison ricin. It was said to be one of the largest seizures of terrorist (ISIS / Daesh) related material ever recovered in the UK with over two terabytes of material.  Numerous charges under both The Terrorism Act of 2000 and 2006, from how to construct a mobile explosive device to the dissemination of information as well as membership of a prescribed organisation.

Operation Italie | Leeds Crown Court – The defendant was charged with numerous counts of dissemination of a terrorist publication contrary to section 2 of The Terrorism Act 2006. In short, he used separate Twitter accounts over a period of a year to tweet material and links to sites supportive of and associated with the Islamic State (ISIS).

M H | Central Criminal Court – Individual travelled to Turkey intending to travel on to Syria. It is alleged this was with a view to with to committing a terrorist act. He was stopped, interviewed by the security services and deported to the United Kingdom. Charged under section 5(1) of the Terrorism Act 2006.

Operation Zanetti | Derby Crown Court – Distributing threatening written material intending to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation – This was the first prosecution of its kind in the United Kingdom under the amended Public Order Act. The case had a number of significant issues from freedom of speech/religion and the Human Rights Act. It attracted considerable media publicity and interest from various groups. Interestingly although this was a public order offence it was prosecuted by the Counter-Terrorism Unit, London. Subsequently, one of the defendants KA was killed whilst fighting for ISIS in January 2015.

Operation Praline | Central Criminal Crown Court / Blackfriars Crown Court – Britain’s youngest teenager ‘terrorist’. Instructed as junior counsel (leading counsel Baroness Helena Kennedy QC / Harinder De-Silva QC). The largest-ever recovery of ‘jihadist’ terrorist material recovered in Europe, with over 1.25 million pages of evidence. A ‘terrorist grooming’ case with a young 16-year-old defendant from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. The arrests were first made in May/June of 2005 but due to the sheer unprecedented amount of material, the trial finally concluded in the summer of 2008. (Very High-Cost Case). In Easter of 2015, the defendant’s younger brother was reported missing and thought to have joined ISIS in Iraq.

M & Others (Failed July 21st Bombings) | Kingston Crown Court – Helping to evade capture of the failed July 21st bombers and having terrorist material.

KK & Others | Central Criminal Crown Court – Conspiracy to breach Control Orders

Operation Monmorth | Manchester Crown Court – Making of a homemade bomb.


Operation WORCESTER | Chester Crown Court ‘one of the most extraordinary cases of modern times’. As described in The Sunday Times News Review of the 5th August 2012.  ‘Honour Killing’ 2003 murder of SA by her parents. S was drugged and taken to Pakistan for an arranged marriage where she drank bleach. On her return to the UK, she was cared for in intensive care and after her release, she disappeared in September 2003.  After a nationwide search, her partially decomposed body, less the upper mandible, was discovered in Cumbria in February 2004. Both parents were arrested for the murder in September 2010, after their second eldest daughter gave evidence against them (herself under arrest for robbery).  A third daughter had written letters to a friend saying she had witnessed the murder which came to light, midway through the trial when the friend came forward.  Further to the revelation of these letters, S parents were taken into custody and her mother blamed her father wholly, for the murder.  There were in excess of 34 experts in various fields from botany to the concept of ‘honour’ abuse.

Operation PALLHILL | Leeds Crown Court – NK had travelled from London to Leeds with other co-defendants to buy a large number of drugs from the home address of brothers PW and ZM.  It was accepted that the defendants intended to rob the other party of drugs and NK produced a handgun.  As a result, a struggle ensued and a number of shots were fired from the handgun resulting in one fatality PW and his brother ZM being seriously injured.  This was a complex investigation as NK had left the jurisdiction, but eventfully returned voluntarily. The Yorkshire Post

PB ‘Serial Killer’ – PB was already serving a life sentence for killing two people in Nottingham in 2010, when he was given another life sentence, with a consecutive term before parole could be considered.  PB made a surprise confession about a third murder to a psychiatrist as he lost his own child and had a bout of conscience (this was, in fact, his first murder whilst serving another prison sentence some 20 years previously). PB pleaded guilty to murdering a fellow prisoner at HMP Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight in 1994.  He hanged him when they were both in the hospital ward at HMP Parkhurst.

Operation DOUBLE | Leicester Crown Court – Murder following a party, said to be gang-related.

Operation FACILITY | Worcester Crown Court – A case involving the burning and thereafter disposing of a body in the back garden.  A real ‘Midsomer Murder’ mystery.  In total, the Crown alone instructed 17 experts.  The jury acquitted the defendants unanimously in less than three hours.

JB & Six Others – Junior counsel in defending a 14-year-old charged with the murder of schoolboy KY in West London in broad daylight.  The defendant was convicted of manslaughter.  Although the appeal failed it is one of the leading cases on the issue of jury bias and joint enterprise.

Regina v KY, BR, JB, MW, TD, [2009] EWCA Crim 930, 2009 WL 1403457

AH & 7 Others – Junior counsel representing a 14-year-old charged with the stabbing of a boy outside the Mass nightclub in Brixton.  The defendant was first on the indictment, with 7 others as co-defendants.

MW – ‘single punch’ Manslaughter – Client was charged with murder, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter but following legal argument his plea was vacated, (this was a rare occurrence) and especially since he had been represented by Queens Counsel and junior Counsel.  The Crown attempted to resurrect the murder count but were ultimately unsuccessful, after a further legal argument.  The Client was eventually tried on a single count of manslaughter at Stafford Crown Court.

Serious Sexual Offences

Operation SPAN – Rochdale Sex Grooming Case | Liverpool Crown Court – This is now the infamous case of a gang of men who were tried for rape and trafficking of young girls many of them from the Local Authority Care system.  Nine men were convicted. Despite a Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) investigation, the Court of Appeal rejected the grounds of appeal or any jury impropriety/interference.  However, as a result of this case, the procedure was changed in that all jurors must surrender any electronic devices whilst they are deliberating.

The case has continued to attract a vast amount of comment and media coverage with a TV series [Three Girls, BBC] in which part of Zarif’s cross-examination was re-enacted for audiences in the courtroom scene.

Additionally, the case has been a benchmark in relation to policies towards sex cases of young vulnerable adults, the multi-agency approach and cultural behaviours.

Media coverage – extensive: – Question in Parliament, numerous enquiries by multiple agencies.

Operation BULLFINCH – Oxford Sex Grooming Case | Central Criminal Court – Instructed as junior counsel for one of the principal defendants in the sex grooming trial at the Old Bailey.  The case involved allegations of sexual grooming of young girls over a period of years by older men. Many of the offences were historic and involved young girls from broken homes or from within the care system. There was a 59-count indictment containing a myriad of sexual offences from rape to trafficking.  The case attracted considerable national and international publicity and was being reported by way of an on-line feed by a number of media organisations.  After conviction, it was one of the first ‘Grooming cases’ where life sentences were passed.

Zarif was invited to appear in the Court of Appeal and the Vice President, Dame Heather Hallet DBE said as follows:-

“In fact, you received what might be described as a “polite direction” to attend, and you have attended and assisted the court not only with your knowledge of this case but also the Rochdale case.”

Now the leading case on sex grooming.

Operation INFRARED / HAREHILL / KELLERABBEY / DOUBLET / STREET CHILD – Numerous sex grooming cases following on from acting in the case that shook the UK to its core, the Rochdale grooming cases.

Marcel Vasile Sex trafficking across Europe  / prostitution/rape – Vasile “bought” a woman who was trafficked from Romania and forced her to work as a prostitute in various brothels in London. The victim was 18 when a father and son first trafficked her into the UK from Romania in November 2007, after which she was “sold” to Vasile.  Police traced Vasile to a prison in Spain; he was extradited and then return to Madrid to finish his sentence for trafficking offences in Spain before returning to prison in the UK.

B | Sheffield Crown Court – Instructed as leading junior in a major paedophile case in Sheffield, involving over 42 young victims (all under 16 years of age) over a period of many years by one man. Was partly convicted on an indictment containing some 22 counts.

This was one of the first cases, which outlined the inadequacies of Rotherham Council and the recent fallout. As a result, a documentary specifically highlighting the case and the lack of action after the conviction was being developed by the BBC.

Fraud and Financial Crime

Operation CHORDAL | Leicester Crown Court – £52 million pound, money laundering & follow on POCA proceedings by a 69-year-old woman. One of the first times that the concept of ‘Cuckoo Smurfing’ money laundering was uncovered.  Cuckoo Smurfing is a new take on the oldest ‘Hawala banking’ system operated in many Middle & far Eastern Countries.

Operation KERNOW | Harrow Crown Court – Fraud – ‘Cash for Crash’, the principal defendant on a 25 handed case involving setting up accidents on motorways across the UK.

Operation HIGH BANK | Bradford Crown Court – Multi-million eBay / PayPal fraud & money laundering, involving primarily electronic goods such as computers and white goods, stolen from lorries and being sold through multiple E-bay accounts of connected individuals.

R -v- S & Others | Isleworth Crown Court – VAT evasion through smuggling of a specialist type of tobacco goods.

Operation PUCCINI | Leeds / Bradford Crown Court – Investigated as an international banking fraud by the Central Fraud Division (London). Representing the principal defendant regarded as the mastermind, who was using a sophisticated smuggling network to move millions of pounds back to Zimbabwe.  To distance themselves from the crime, the gang members used dozens of people, like mules, to cash counterfeit cheques.  Some of the fraud was sub-contracted to Eastern European gangs. This was the largest fraudulent cheque seizure that the Financial Fraud Bureau had ever undertaken since the inception of the unit.

Operation BURLEIGH 1 & 2 | Manchester [Minshull Street] Crown Court – Large-scale counterfeit goods trial, whereby branded goods in separate containers were imported from China in a very sophisticated manner and thereafter, put together in a hidden underground factory.

Operation ERASURE | Liverpool Crown Court – Linked to three other operations (Operations Mimosa, Forbear, and Bridging). One of the largest cases in the defrauding of VAT, involving charities and counterfeiting clothing as well as luxury goods. (Very High-Cost Case).

Operation FOXHOLE | Manchester Crown Court – Fraud, money laundering & perverting the course of public justice. This was a long firm fraud of QV stores the original 99 pence stores.

Human Trafficking and Sham Marriage

Operation BELLMAN – TA & three others – A Home Office prosecution following a high-profile BBC Panorama investigation and under the direction of Theresa May, the then Home Secretary. Zarif Khan represented one of the directors of a Higher Education College (Manchester Trinity College), where it was said that various types of malpractice/cheating occurred with the approval of the management. The students were primarily from the oil-rich ‘Gulf’ states. The four defendants were charged with conspiring to do acts, which facilitated the breach of immigration law, by individuals who were not a citizen’s of the European Union in respect of abuse at a college.  However, the format of the indictment was challenged on half time submission and the prosecution appealed the case to the Court of Appeal as a Terminating ruling. The Court of Appeal agreed with the analysis of the law as argued by Zarif Khan and permission to appeal was refused to lead to the acquittal of all four defendants. This has resulted in the prosecution changing all future indictments in like offences.

Operation MIME (Human Trafficking) – Leading junior – Smuggling / human trafficking of 35 Sikhs from Afghanistan to Tilbury Docks via the port of Zeebrugge in a sea container. Unfortunately one of the clandestine victims died in transit.

Immigration – ‘A’ – Mail on Sunday undercover sting – An undercover reporter purchasing an English Language Certificate, which would allow someone to circumvent the immigration rules. The case had the personal intervention of the Home Secretary Theresa May.

Operation REMBRANDT – Sham Marriages – Involving a number of women from Hungary being brought to the UK under false pretences and then being married to non-EU nationals. The defendant was charged with conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law by a non-EU person and false imprisonment.  The false imprisonment charge was withdrawn by the judge at the end of the prosecution case and the jury was discharged as a result of cross-examination on telephonic material contradicting the complainant’s account.  It then transpired after the close of the prosecution case that the defendant had been recruited by UKBA as an informant.  Zarif ran an abuse of process argument and the Crown, as a result, offered no evidence because of further disclosure requests.

Operation KEEPNET | Leeds Crown Court – Exploitation of workers (slave labour). The first prosecution in the UK involving the employment and exploitation of workers in a restaurant.  The leading authority on the sentencing of such offenders.

Operation GREEN SEA | Southwark Crown Court – The case was a large-scale conspiracy relating to people smuggling from the far East. (Very High-Cost Case).

D & 9 Others | Southwark Crown Court – Instructed as a leading junior, the case involved trafficking of people into as well as within the United Kingdom for the purposes of sexual exploitation. This was a professionally run prostitution ring on the internet with women primarily from Thailand being exploited.  Zarif represented the main female defendant in the case.

Drugs and Firearms Offences

Operation JASPER | Preston Crown Court. – Principle defendant in one of the largest drug supply investigations in the Lancashire area. Large scale Class A drugs supply and importation of 27kgs of heroin. The operation had been active for 18 months of live observations and telephones calls in excess of 623,000 for a single drugs street supply line number.

Operation VOLCANO | Manchester [Minshull Street] Crown Court. Drugs and money laundering.

Operation TRAY | Wolverhampton Crown Court – Firearms, drugs & money laundering.

AS & 13 Others | Maidstone Crown Court – Large-scale surveillance operation involving the importation of drugs and possession of large amounts of currency in Euros and GBP Sterling. Representing the main defendant on two separate indictments involving separate drugs importations, with different organised crime groups.

Operation GORAT | Central Criminal Court – Attempted murder, possession of firearms and drugs.

Regulatory and Professional Disciplinary

Case 1 – Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).  Zarif has a developing practice in Regulatory work, specifically with the NMC, MPTS and MHRA. The most recent case involved an unrepresented appellant in a case at the High Court (Queens Bench Division) Administrative Court.  There were two substantive issues before the Court. Firstly, whether the appeal was out of time and as a result ‘time-barred’, and secondly, whether the ‘striking off’ was an appropriate sanction in the circumstances. This was an unusual case because the appellant had been unrepresented from the inception of the case, after an 18-year unblemished record as a midwife she was struck off. The striking off decision was overturned on appeal by the High Court, as well as ordering a rehearing the High Court Judge criticised the NMC: –  “the Panel failed to have regard to the fact that the appellant was unrepresented and disadvantaged in the presentation of her case”.  And further said, “this one example illustrates the difficulty of the unrepresented practitioner.” At the rehearing, the appellant remained unrepresented and after placing conditions of practice for a period of time, then struck off the appellant. Unfortunately, various statutory time limits had not been complied with and the High Court regarded any appeal as time-barred and therefore her striking off could not be challenged.

Case 2 – Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) – Representing a nurse who had conditions of practice placed upon her because she suffered from a bipolar disorder, but the NMC applied to have her struck off. Various experts were called including psychiatrists.  The case again raised a number of issues including an unrepresented individual who clearly needed support rather than a draconian application to end an otherwise unblemished career.  The panel did not strike her off but relaxed the very stringent conditions of practice with a review in 6 months rather the previous long period of three years.

Case 3 – Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) – Representing a Doctor before the Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service (MPTS). On allegations of failing to disclose a caution and altering patients records.

Case 4 – The Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) – Advising a company and It’s directors on how to respond to various breaches of EU & UK regulations as identified by The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The company licence was summarily withdrawn which can only be reinstated with an application to the High Court (Administrative Division).

Prison Mutiny and Riot

Football Riot | Central Criminal Court – A fight between Brentford FC supporters and Leyton Orient outside Liverpool Street, a railway station in London.

Herbert & Others – Mutiny at Aylesbury YOI, representing one of the main protagonists.

Additional Information

Regularly interviewed on a variety of issues, most recently by Geo News (an international TV news broadcaster from the sub-continent, both online written and visual media), regarding the implementation of the Criminal Finance Act 2017 and specifically Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO).

Invited by TRACE, a European Union-funded project, on addressing human trafficking in Brussels. (The Trace Project).

Interviewed by The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2014 towards the police formulation/issue paper on the role of ‘consent’ in the trafficking of person protocol. (see the full Issue Paper at UNODC).

Advisory work for an international businessman arrested for international money laundering, connected to a major political party from Pakistan and linked to the murder of a member of the same political party living in exile in the UK. The case was dropped.

Continuing support and undertaking cases on behalf of the Bar Pro Bono Unit.

Actively contributes to radio and television programmes on changes in the law and general developments in legislation.

Approved Advocacy Trainer for Lincoln’s Inn in addition to acting as a member of the Special Tribunals Board.

Former co-opted member of the CBA.

Past training adviser for HMR&C.

Over the years Zarif has been involved with the activities of a number of charities and organisations, such as the North Kensington Law Centre which was the first law centre in the United Kingdom, set up by solicitor Peter Candler, in 1970. Zarif served as the Vice-Chair and on the Management Committee from 2002 to 2011.

Past serving School Governor at Chelsea Children’s Hospital (registered Charity). This hospital deals with children with particular medical needs some of whom would never be able to leave the hospital environment for the entirety of their lives.

The devastating Pakistan earthquake on the 8th October 2005 wiped-out a large part of Zarif’s childhood home and community where he grew up in Kashmir, before migrating to the UK at the age of 10. As well as a number of close members of his family perishing in the earthquake, the wide-spread human devastation and destruction of infrastructure were on an unprecedented level. Zarif travelled to the site of the earthquake to help in the immediate relief efforts, flying out within 24 hours.  He worked on the ground with a number of charities, NGO’s and media organisations, initially to highlight the devastation and his was the first ground report from the region, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and 5.

Since then he has helped to rebuild his first school and continues to assist with private philanthropy and public office engagement, visiting the region and the communities that continue to be affected on an infrequent basis.

General advice to community organisations and individuals on an ad hoc basis.

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