The Memo: Autonomy founder extradited to the US

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Packard into a corner: Autonomy founder extradited to the US

Amy Howe – 15 May 2023

Just last week, British billionaire Mike Lynch was extradited to the US to face criminal fraud charges after losing an appeal in the High Court. The tech entrepreneur is alleged to have mislead Hewlett-Packard into overpaying for his software firm Autonomy; an acquisition the American tech manufacturer paid a hefty $11 billion (£8.2 billion) for back in 2011.

Lynch faces 17 charges in the Californian criminal courts, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud. If found guilty, the billionaire could face up to 25 years behind bars. While Lynch denies any wrongdoing, Autonomy’s ex-CFO Sushovan Hussain has already been serving time in a US jail since 2019, after being found guilty of his part in fraud over the same deal.

Lynch’s extradition was made possible under the 2003 UK-US extradition treaty, which aimed to bolster each country’s ability to extradite offenders of a number of serious crimes, ranging from terrorism to white-collar crime. There is, however, widespread criticism of the treaty. Among other things, many argue that the treaty is heavily unbalanced, as it allows the US to extradite British citizens for breach of US law, despite the offences being committed in the UK by an individual living and working in the UK (but not vice versa).

This criticism plays a part in Lynch’s case, as he has argued that his extradition should be refused by UK courts as Autonomy was a UK-listed company and the allegations he faced were in relation to UK accounting standards and decisions. Lynch has argued that on this basis, he should therefore be tried in the UK.

So, where does the UK stand with the treaty? In response to the criticism, then-Home Secretary Theresa May ordered an official review of the UK’s extradition treaties conducted by Lord Justice Scott Baker, which found no evidence to conclude that the treaty was unfairly balanced in favour of the US. Yet these findings contradict those of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), who urged the government to review and renegotiate the terms of the treaty to offer British citizens the same protection afforded to US citizens. In a 2012 Freedom of Information request to the Home Office, it was found that under the treaty no US citizens had been extradited from the US to the UK for offences committed while the individual was in the US.