British Tech Tycoon Says Any Charges Against Him Should be in England
Mike Lynch, the founder of Autonomy, a software company that was sold to Hewlett-Packard (HP) for £8 billion in 2011, is facing extradition to the United States on fraud charges. He has launched a High Court appeal against former Home Secretary Priti Patel’s decision to approve his extradition in February 2021.
Lynch is accused by US authorities of inflating Autonomy’s revenues and misleading investors before the sale to HP, which resulted in a $8.8 billion writedown by HP a year later. He denies any wrongdoing and claims that HP mismanaged Autonomy after the acquisition.
Lynch’s appeal is based on several grounds, including that his alleged conduct took place in the UK and should be tried by UK courts; that he would face an unfair trial and harsh prison conditions in the US; and that his extradition would breach his human rights.
Lynch’s legal team argued that he was a “proud Briton” who had made “an immense contribution” to the UK economy and society through his innovation and philanthropy. They also said that he had cooperated with UK authorities, including the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which closed its investigation into Autonomy in 2015 without any charges.
The US government’s lawyers countered that Lynch had engaged in a “deliberate fraud” that harmed US investors and companies, and that he had failed to disclose relevant evidence to the SFO. They also said that he would receive a fair trial and adequate protection of his rights in the US.
The appeal hearing is expected to last for two days at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Lynch attended the hearing on Wednesday along with his wife and supporters. If he loses his appeal, he can still apply for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Lynch’s extradition case is separate from a civil lawsuit brought by HP against him and other former Autonomy executives in London’s High Court. In January 2021, Lynch lost that case and was ordered to pay $5 billion in damages to HP. He is appealing against that ruling as well.
Lynch’s saga has raised questions about the UK-US extradition treaty, which some critics say is biased against British citizens and does not protect their interests. It has also highlighted the challenges faced by British tech entrepreneurs who seek to compete globally but may face legal risks from foreign jurisdictions.