Details of practice

James Lewis is a rare specialist in both civil and criminal cases. This is demonstrated by the stellar array of leading cases in which he has appeared and shows that his experience and judgment is highly sought after.

Vastly experienced in criminal, civil and commercial fraud, extradition, regulatory work, contempt, public international law and judicial review matters. He appears frequently at first instance, the Court of Appeal and in the Privy Council and the Supreme Court as well as other foreign jurisdictions being additionally called ad hoc to the bars of Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Cayman Islands, Brunei, Trinidad and Tobago and Ireland.

Often used as an experienced litigation strategist and advocate who can advise and represent companies and individuals in respect of commercial, regulatory and criminal issues, particularly those with an international dimension. He excels in complex and difficult cases. Described by a judge as a Rolls Royce advocate.

He has extensive trial and appellate experience in matters of mutual assistance, extradition and commercial fraud, which encompasses international cooperation concerning search and seizure of documents, letters of request, warrants and other international treaty matters; and sanctions work. He has acted for and against at least 20 overseas governments.

In commercial fraud matters between 2014 and 2016 he was senior leading counsel for the SFO investigation into the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market (‘FOREX’ Fines of £1.7 billion were imposed on the banks). He advises the FCA in the ongoing actions against Barclays Bank and others.  Other substantial commercial fraud cases include HRH Prince Jefri of Brunei ( $30 billion); Masri ($150 million); Snoras Bank v Antonov ($1 billion); Bogolyubov v Pinchuk ($1.5 billion); Al Gosaibi v Saad ($7 billion); Phoenix v Gerald Smith & Oths (£200 million).

Recent Supreme Court cases he has appeared in are R (on the application of B) v Westminster [2015] AC 1195 involving closed procedure material; Lithuania v Bucnys [2014] AC 480 involving European Union Law; VB v Westminster Magistrates Court [2014] UKSC 59 involving closed material procedure; extradition; a nd witness anonymity orders; and R (British Sky Broadcasting Ltd) v Central Criminal Court [2014] AC 885 involving civil procedure; criminal evidence; civil evidence, and production orders.

To see James Lewis in action in the Supreme Court this is a link to the latest appeal he has conducted; R (Hutchings) v Director of Public Prosecutions of Northern Ireland UKSC 2018/0040.

He has been instructed to defend in the first two unexplained wealth orders (“UWO”) introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017 sought by the National Crime Agency. The UWOs involve multi million pound sums.

Practice areas

  • Criminal fraud
  • Commercial fraud
  • Contempt
  • Extradition and mutual legal assistance
  • Bribery, FCPA
  • International and public law
  • State and Diplomatic immunity
  • Inquests
  • Regulatory and financial

Directory recommendations

‘An incredibly experienced silk whose practice includes serious criminal matters with an international angle.’ ‘Strong, smart and fearless.’  ‘He has great authority and is very persuasive in court.’  ‘Very comprehensive, both in terms of reading around the case and in thinking of all methods to meet the client’s objectives. ‘  Chambers UK 2017: Crime

‘An outstanding silk with in-depth experience of the most complex and challenging extradition cases.’ ‘Highly recommended for his colourful advocacy and intellectual acumen.’  ‘A terrific opponent who is extraordinarily able.  He is very enthusiastic, has lots of energy and never misses a point.’  ‘He has a very good understanding of extradition and international law and is delightful to work with.’  Chambers UK 2017: Extradition

‘Relied upon by an impressive client base.’ ‘A smooth, clever advocate who inspires confidence.’  ‘He is academically excellent and has considerable experience in international cases.’  Chambers UK 2017: Financial Crime

His work includes fraud-related extradition cases and private prosecutions.’ The Legal 500 2016: Fraud

‘All you would expect from a top QC and more; he never disappoints.’ The Legal 500 2016: Administrative & Public Law

‘He is very able and user-friendly, and has a very good brain, and good client skills too.  Clients love him.’ ‘He is fantastically good and knowledgeable – one of the few experts in the field of international criminal law.’ Chambers UK 2015: Crime

‘A very good problem solver who is good at thinking outside the box and finding wider ways to deal with problems.’ ‘His experience of acting in multi-jurisdictional cases and representing governments is invaluable.’ Chambers UK 2015: Extradition

‘A very elegant advocate.’ Chambers UK 2015: Financial Crime

‘Thoroughly reliable.’ The Legal 500 2014: Fraud

Recommended for inquest work’. The Legal 500 2014: Administrative & Public Law

“Enjoying an excellent reputation, he handles cases which often present complex international aspects and has appeared in many foreign jurisdictions.”  “He excels in difficult and complex cases.”  Chambers UK 2014:  Crime

“Has both defended and prosecuted in extradition proceedings all the way up to the Supreme Court.”..“He has a great courtroom manner.  Pretty much everybody likes him – even the people he’s trying to extradite.”  Chambers UK 2014:  Extradition

“He’s very clever and thinks hard about the bigger picture and the detail.  He’s a very good team player and is very creative.”  “A general who’s not afraid to get into the trenches and fight with the troops.”  Chambers UK 2014:  Fraud

‘thoroughly reliable’.  The Legal 500 2013:  Fraud

“a brilliant tactician” “has a clarity of judgment and wisdom that few can match”. The Legal 500 2012

“a punchy, bright, powerfully intelligent advocate” whose “mastery of detail” is ideally suited to the weighty cases he undertakes”. Chambers UK

“very, very bright” “the silk of note for major extradition and international crime cases”  The Lawyer Hot 100

“a fluent performer who is great on the law” “an extremely clever lawyer who is effective in court.””   Chambers UK 2012

Another at the set singled out for his extradition work is James Lewis QC, of whom sources could not speak highly enough.  He has “an ability to look at issues in different ways,” and is “very reliable, very knowledgeable and a great strategist.”  He also specialises in complex and international crime as well as corruption and antitrust affairs.  One recent example of his extradition work was the case of Shankaran, whom the Indian authorities were seeking over allegations of leaking official secrets.  Chambers UK 2013:  Crime

James Lewis QC is a well-known criminal fraud silk and extradition guru, who has acted in courts as far afield as Gibraltar, the Cayman Islands and Brunei.  Recently he has been appearing in the USD9.1 billion Al Sanea litigation, and has also been dealing with the contempt aspects of two long-running commercial disputes.  Chambers UK 2013:  Fraud


Education/professional qualifications

BSc (Hons)
Diploma in Law
Called 1987


2018        Appointed Chief Justice of the Falkland Islands
2018        Appointed Chief Justice of the British Indian Ocean Territory
2018        Appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of South Georgia and the South
 2018       Sandwich Islands
2018        Appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of the British Antarctic Territory
2017        Election Commissioner (High Court Appointment)
2013        Appointed to the SFO Prosecution List
2013        Deputy High Court Judge assigned to the Administrative Court
2011        Authorised to sit as a judge of the Central Criminal Court
2010        Member Advisory Group to the Sentencing Guidelines Council
2008        Member Criminal Committee of the Judicial College
2007        Bencher of Gray’s Inn
2006        Tutor Judge for the Judicial Studies Board (Judicial College)
2004        Gray’s Inn advocacy trainer
2002        Queen’s Counsel
2000        Recorder of the Crown Court
1999        Attorney General’s List (civil)

Other information

Admitted ad hoc to the Bars of Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Brunei, the Crown Colony of the Cayman Islands, Trinidad & Tobago and Ireland.

Direct access

James Lewis QC is qualified to accept instructions direct from clients under the Bar Council’s Public Access Scheme.  This means that members of the public who seek specialist advice can come direct to him.  In addition, he welcomes instructions from solicitors, in-house law departments, qualified foreign lawyers, and clients licensed by the Bar Council to give instructions direct to barristers under the Bar Council’s Licensed Access Scheme.

For further information please contact our Clerks.