Mike Lynch, the billionaire founder of software company Autonomy, may be extradited to the United States, a London judge ruled Thursday in a case that is seen as proof of the British courts’ willingness to block the removal of business executives in the United States.
Lynch, one of the UK’s best-known tech entrepreneurs, has been charged in the United States with 17 counts of conspiracy and fraud in connection with Hewlett-Packard’s acquisition of Autonomy for $ 11 billion in 2011. .
Lynch is accused of allegedly manipulating Autonomy accounts, leading HP to pay an additional $ 5 billion for the company. He denies the wrongs.
His extradition case was heard earlier this year, but hearings have been postponed pending the outcome of a verdict on a High Court civil fraud case brought against Lynch by Hewlett Packard. Enterprise for the sale of Autonomy.
But after hearing that the Supreme Court ruling had not been overturned for several months, District Judge Michael Snow told Lynch Thursday that he rejected his case and did not believe the extradition was an abuse. of process.
Mike Lynch said he was “disappointed” that Snow had ruled against him without waiting for the outcome of the Supreme Court case.
He said in a statement: “At the request of the US Department of Justice, the Court ruled that a British citizen who ran a British company listed on the London Stock Exchange should be extradited to America on charges of his conduct in the United Kingdom. We say that this case belongs to the United Kingdom. ”
Lynch promised to appeal if Interior Secretary Priti Patel decided to order his removal. Losing parties in extradition cases can undertake a lengthy appeal process to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court.
Lynch’s argument against extradition to the United States was based on a defense known as the “forum bar,” which allows courts to block extradition if a large portion of the alleged criminal activity it is made in the United Kingdom.
His lawyer Alex Bailin QC had argued in Westminster Magistrates ’Court earlier this year that the UK’s Serious Fraud Office had reserved his right to prosecute Lynch in the UK if his extradition was blocked. . The SFO abandoned its own probe in 2015 after ceding part of its investigation to the United States.
However, the U.S. government argued that Lynch should be prosecuted in the United States because “America was the site of the intended victims of the fraud” and HP’s shares were primarily based in the United States.
The case has a wider significance for British business leaders, setting an important precedent for those accused of criminal misconduct. Bailin said at the extradition hearing earlier this year that business leaders should be “held accountable here” because “the United States is not the global marshal of the corporate world.”
The UK-US extradition treaty signed with the United States in 2003 has long been criticized by lawmakers for being weighed in favor of the United States and being used to target suspected white-collar suspects and terrorists.
David Davis, a Conservative MP, said after the ruling that Lynch’s decision was a “scandal” and that because of the “unjust and unbalanced” extradition treaty, Snow had ignored “every word of a 10-month civil trial”. “who considered the case in” Full Detail. “
The forum bar argument was initially seen as “toothless” when it was first introduced in 2014 but in recent years has been invoked by judges in some cases when the alleged conduct is been in the United Kingdom.
In 2018 British courts refused to extradite Stuart Scott, a London-based HSBC banker who was accused in the United States of forex-rigging.
In his decision, Snow said the effects of Lynch’s alleged conduct were felt in the United States even though Lynch was based primarily in the United Kingdom. “I am pleased that the enormous financial losses caused to HP in the United States, the losses suffered by U.S. investors and the significant damage to reputation caused to HP strongly favor extradition,” he said.
Snow concluded by adding that any attempt to prosecute Lynch in the UK by the SFO would result in “a considerable additional delay” to any trial. He also criticized one of Lynch’s expert witnesses who testified at hearings on American prison conditions as an “unreliable partisan witness.”
Snow will not decide Lynch’s guilt or innocence for the charges, but only to decide whether the case meets the legal criteria for extradition.