Autonomy founder Mike Lynch’s extradition has been temporarily halted after the British software millionaire filed a judicial review challenging legal findings against him.
The latest move appears to have stopped the clock from ticking on Lynch’s extradition from Britain by the US government, buying Lynch a few more weeks or months of guaranteed freedom.
Lynch is accused by the US of defrauding investors in Hewlett Packard after selling his firm Autonomy to HP for $11bn in 2011.
A year later HP wrote down Autonomy’s value by nearly $9bn and claimed Lynch and his top lieutenants had falsely inflated its value through accounting trickery. Lynch (and the lieutenants) deny wrongdoing, saying their accounts were signed off by auditors and that HP had mismanaged Autonomy, thus needing a scapegoat.
A recent hearing in the new judicial review case was reported this morning by The Times. Lynch is said to be challenging Westminster Magistrates’ Court’s November ruling, which gave Home Secretary Priti Patel a deadline of 16 December to decide whether or not to send the software entrepreneur to America.
Mr Justice Chamberlain, presiding at yesterday’s hearing, is said to have prevented the Home Secretary from making a formal decision on extradition until a judge has examined the Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruling from November and ruled on it. A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that the extradition case is now on ice, saying that Home Secretary Priti Patel is “giving full consideration” to it.
It was said that Patel wants to read the High Court judgment in the (separate) long-running civil case between HPE and Lynch before deciding whether to extradite; the US appears to want to speed up its extradition case linked to the US litigation. If the High Court rules in Lynch’s favour, it may harden attitudes on this side of the Atlantic towards the extradition request.
Lynch’s case has enjoyed a high profile because it raises questions about due diligence in tech industry mergers and acquisitions as well as imbalances between British and US law.
The US alleges Lynch committed crimes before and during the sale of Autonomy, while British authorities have declined to pursue the exec – though history is full of examples where British law enforcement handed cases to their US counterparts because that country’s federal courts rarely deliver not guilty verdicts.
The UK civil case
The Home Office had been repeatedly kicking the Lynch extradition ball into the long grass after a surprise judgment handed down in July. District Judge Michael Snow, hearing the extradition case at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, had previously said he was going to withhold judgment until after the long-awaited High Court ruling in the civil case between Hewlett Packard (Enterprise) and Lynch.
Whatever the Crown Prosecution Service (on behalf of the US) told Judge Snow to overturn that is unknown publicly.
After that judgment the normal route of appeal would have been to the High Court and then the Court of Appeal. Lynch’s judicial review throws a procedural spanner into the works. Meanwhile, lawyers reportedly told Mr Justice Chamberlain yesterday that the High Court’s judgment in the mammoth civil fraud case between Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lynch is expected in January.
The judicial review means that Lynch is now conducting three separate pieces of litigation in the UK alone: the High Court civil case; the extradition case; and now the judicial review against the extradition case. In the US he faces criminal trial on 17 charges, alongside former Autonomy senior manager Stephen Chamberlain.
The High Court case alone was costing each side £4m a month, as was revealed in court. Judicial reviews don’t come cheap and neither do contested extradition proceedings with QCs on both sides – but what price freedom?
Lynch’s representatives could not be reached for comment.
The extradition case comes as Anne Sacoolas consented to stand trial by video link from the US after killing a Briton in a road traffic accident near RAF Croughton, a communications base in Northamptonshire. The judicial review means Lynch’s case is not quite at the same stage as WikiLeaker Julian Assange, who is expected to file an appeal against a Home Office decision in due course. ®
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