"Zarif is forthright, cuts to the chase, and is able to assimilate complex information with ease."
The Legal 500 2024
"Thorough and meticulous in his presentation."
Chambers & Partners 2022
"Zarif has an excellent command of the case, precise knowledge of the law, and is fantastic with clients and judges."
Legal 500 2023
"Excellent at case preparation and meticulous in his presentation of a case in court."
Chambers & Partners 2023
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.
Chambers & Partners says he is a: “recommended individual”.
The Legal 500 directory also recommends Zarif, quoting: “A great advocate with charm, warmth and court presence”.
The diversity of Zarif’s practice 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 de-mystify 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 shines 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 complement 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.
Zarif is fluent in Urdu and Punjabi, Direct Access Accredited and an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) / Mediator. Zarif has consistently been highly ranked as a leading individual in Criminal law, in both Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners directory for many years.
Operation SOLEUS - Woolwich Crown Court
Offences under Section 5 and 2 of The Terrorism Act 2006 of disseminating terrorist publications and preparing terrorist acts. Yousif Al-Sayed, 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 differing 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.
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).
Defendant accused of developing 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 dissemination of information as well as membership of a prescribed organisation.
M Hussain – Sheffield Crown Court.
Individual travelled to Turkey intending to travel on to Syria, with a view 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 it’s 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 Kabir Ahmed was killed whilst fighting for ISIS in January 2015.
Operation PRALINE - Central Criminal Crown Court / Blackfriars Crown Court.
Zarif was instructed as junior counsel to leading counsel Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and Harinder De-Silva QC. – Britain’s youngest teenager ‘terrorist’ and 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 and 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 the Easter of 2015 the defendant’s younger brother was reported missing and thought to have joined ISIS in Iraq and later killed.
Helping to evade capture of the failed July 21st bombers and having terrorist material. (Very High Cost Case).
Khalid Kelay & Others - Central Criminal Crown Court.
Conspiracy to breach Control Orders.
Operation MONMORTH - Manchester Crown Court.
Making of a home made 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 Shafelia Ahmed by her parents.
Shafelia 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 thorough the trial when the friend came forward. Further to the revelation of these letters, Shafelia’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.
Naseer Khan had travelled from London to Leeds with other co-defendants to buy a quantity of drugs from the home address of brothers Pawel Matras and Zdzislaw Matras. It was accepted that the defendants intended to rob the other party of drugs and Naseer Khan produced a handgun. As a result, a struggle ensued and a number of shots were fired from the handgun resulting in one fatality Pawel Matras and his brother Zdzislaw Matras being seriously injured. This was a complex investigation as Naseer Khan had left the jurisdiction, but eventfully returned voluntarily.
Peter Brown 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. Mr. Brown 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). Mr. Brown 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.
Murder following a party, said to be gang related.
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.
Jamal Bridgeman & Six Others.
Junior counsel in defending a 14 year old charged with the murder of schoolboy “Kodjo Yenga” 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 Kurtis Yemoh, BR, JB, MW, TD,  EWCA Crim 930, 2009 WL 1403457
Anwar Hussain & 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.
Mr. Wint 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 further legal argument. Mr. Wint was eventually tried on a single count of manslaughter at Stafford Crown Court.
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. Interestingly the verdicts were published by the far right website and tweeted by Nick Griffin (BNP leader at the time). 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, procedure was changed in that all jurors must surrender any electronic devices whilst they are deliberating.
The case has continued to attract 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. Zarif is also mentioned in the book, Girl A, based on the case, written by Nigel Bunyan (The Telegraph).
Additionally the case has been a benchmark in relation to policies towards sex cases of young vulnerable adults, the multi agency approach and cultural behaviors.
Operation BULLFINCH – Oxford Sex Grooming Case – Central Criminal Court
Instructed as junior counsel for one of the principle 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.”
This is now the leading case on sex grooming – British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII).
Operation INFRARED / HAREHILL / KELLERABBEY / DOUBLET / STREETCHILD.
Numerous sex grooming cases following on from acting in the case that shook the UK to it’s core, the Rochdale grooming cases.
Marcel Vasile Sex trafficking across Europe / prostitution / rape.
Mr. 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.
Instructed as leading junior in a major pedophile case in Sheffield, involving over 42 young victims (all under 16 years of age) over a period of many years by one man. Mr. Babok was part 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 fall out. As a result a documentary specifically highlighting the case and the lack of action after the conviction was being developed by the BBC.
Operation CHORDAL – Leicester Crown Court.
£52 million pound, money laundering & follow on POCA proceedings by a 69-year-old woman [Super Gran]. 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’, principal defendant on a 25 handed case involving setting up accidents on motorways across the UK.
Operation HIGHBANK – Bradford Crown Court.
Multi million E-bay / 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- Simaria & 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 principle 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, as 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 units inception. A whole episode of the Fraud Squad (ITV1) was dedicated to Onias Hove and transmitted on the 14th May 2015 at 9pm.
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.
Operation BELLMAN – Tofiq Ahmed & three others.
A Home Office prosecution following a high-profile BBC Panorama investigation and under the direction of Theresa May, the then Home Secretary (See Panorama, Immigration Undercover: the Student Visa Scandal, BBC). 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 a 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 leading to the acquittal of all four defendants. This has resulted in the prosecution changing all future indictments in like offences.
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.
An undercover reporter purchasing an English Language Certificate, which would allow someone to circumvent the immigration rules. The case had the personal intervention of then Home Secretary Theresa May.
Operation REMBRANDT - Sham Marriages.
Involving a number of women from Hungary being brought to the UK under false prentices and then being married to non-EU nationals. Defendant was charged with conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law by 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 sentencing of such offenders.
Leading case: – Attorney General Reference No’s. 37, 38 and 65 of 2010 (Shahnawaz Ali Khan, Raza Ali Khan and Perveen Khan),  EWCA Crim 2880.
Operation GREENSEA – Southwark Crown Court.
The case was a large-scale conspiracy relating to people smuggling from the far East. (Very High Cost Case).
Duangthip & 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.
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.
Anastasios Synkiniotis & 13 others – Maindstone 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.
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 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, [Case No: – Co/7869/2009]; 2010 EWHC 272 (Admin), 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 lengthy 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 a 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 license was summarily withdrawn which can only be reinstated with an application to the High Court (Administrative Division).
Football Riot - Central Criminal Court
A fight between Brentford FC and Leyton Orient supporters outside Liverpool Street railway station in London.
Herbert & Others
Mutiny at Aylesbury YOI, representing one of the main protagonists.
Harmondsworth Riot (No. 2)
Representing the main defendant as a leading junior in the second riot that took place at the Asylum & Immigration detention center in 2007.