British software boss Mike Lynch faces 20 YEARS in a US jail after extradition under controversial treaty deal
- Mike Lynch, founder of Autonomy, could face 20 years in jail over fraud charges
- Lynch was remanded in custody on Thursday after arriving on commercial flight
- Critics say 57-year-old is a victim of ‘imperialist’ behaviour by US government
A British tech tycoon was yesterday behind bars in the United States awaiting criminal trial over a UK business deal – sparking fury over the ‘terrible’ extradition treaty between the two countries.
Mike Lynch, founder of software firm Autonomy, could face 20 years in prison over fraud charges relating to the £9billion sale of his company to US firm Hewlett Packard in 2011.
Critics say he is a victim of ‘almost imperialist’ behaviour by the US government. Lynch’s treatment stands in stark contrast to that of Anne Sacoolas, the US diplomat who killed teenager Harry Dunn in a road accident in Britain.
An attempt to extradite Sacoolas to Britain to be prosecuted was rebuffed and she was handed a suspended sentence via videolink to the Old Bailey while staying put in her own country.
David Davis, who was Tory shadow home secretary at the time the US-UK extradition agreement was signed by the Labour government in 2003, said it was a ‘really terrible treaty’. Writing in the Mail, Mr Davis said: ‘Too often, the treaty creates a one-way street, with Briton after Briton heading into US custody. That has consequences for us all.’
Mike Lynch, founder of software firm Autonomy, could face 20 years in prison over fraud charges relating to the £9billion sale of his company to US firm Hewlett Packard in 2011
Lynch, 57, was remanded in custody on Thursday by a judge in California after arriving on a commercial flight accompanied by US marshals.
The businessman had fought extradition for nearly four years, arguing he ought to be tried in Britain.
He ran out of avenues of appeal last month and is thought to have subsequently agreed the date of his travel to the US to face prosecution on the understanding he would remain on bail.
However, Judge Charles Breyer ordered Lynch to pay an £80million bond, hand over his passport and to be placed under 24-hour armed guard, paid for by himself, at an address in San Francisco.
Lynch’s team are understood to have been unaware that he would face a requirement to be under armed guard. Until the bail conditions are met he is to remain in custody, thought likely to be at the court house or a police holding cell rather than a prison.
The judge concluded that the businessman presented ‘a serious and substantial risk of flight’ because of his wealth, estimated by the court at £360million. The judge rejected Lynch’s argument that his use of legal means to fight extradition ‘does not indicate that he would resort to illegal remedies by absconding before trial in this case’.
Lynch, 57, was remanded in custody on Thursday by a judge in California after arriving on a commercial flight accompanied by US marshals
Lynch has been extradited to stand trial over an alleged fraud linked to the 2011 sale of software firm Autonomy to Hewlett-Packard (file picture)
READ MORE: British tech tycoon dubbed ‘the UK’s Bill Gates’ is extradited to the US to face fraud charges over £8billion takeover deal – and faces decades in jail if he is convicted
Tech entrepreneur Mike Lynch, pictured at his Suffolk farm, has been extradited to the US
Lynch, who is married with two teenage children, pleaded not guilty to the 17 charges he faces. A trial date has not yet been set.
He was once lauded as the UK’s answer to Microsoft’s Bill Gates, but the sale of his company Autonomy soon turned sour.
Within a year, new owners Hewlett Packard (HP) wrote down the value of the business by £7billion and later brought a civil lawsuit in London against Lynch and Autonomy’s former chief financial officer Sushovan Hussain. A UK judge ruled in January last year that Lynch had defrauded HP by inflating the value of Autonomy.
For his part, Lynch had said HP did not know what it was doing with Autonomy, and was out of its depth in understanding his technology. Meanwhile, the US brought criminal charges against Lynch for wire fraud and securities fraud.
In 2019, Lynch’s former colleague Hussain was convicted of fraud in the US and sentenced to five years in prison.
The US-UK extradition act of 2003 came into force in 2007. Mr Davis said: ‘The extradition treaty negotiated by Tony Blair was sold to Parliament as a measure to deal with terrorists, murderers and paedophiles.
‘Instead, it is being used to pursue traders, bankers and businesspeople. It means an entrepreneur who falls out with an American company – as Dr Lynch did – can be seized from our shores.’
Mr Davis told Sky News: ‘We send three times as many people to America as they send to us.’ And he accused the US government of ‘almost imperialist behaviour… it’s almost Orwellian really’.
He pointed out that other allies such as France and Germany did not allow America such extradition powers over its citizens. Thomas Garner, extradition partner at London law firm Fladgate, said: ‘The bail set by the US court is by UK standards extraordinarily high and is a clear example of the differing approaches of the US and UK when it comes to prosecuting allegations of white collar crime.’
Business figures including lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman and former HBOS chairman Lord Stevenson reportedly wrote to Rishi Sunak earlier this year to argue against the move to have Lynch face trial in the US.
They said it would see a treaty ‘enacted swiftly after 9/11 to enable the pursuit of terrorists deployed to settle a commercial case already being considered by the UK courts’.
Former Shadow Home Secretary DAVID DAVIS: We MUST change the rules that allow British entrepreneurs to be extradited to the US
BY DAVID DAVIS
Do business with the US from Britain, and you risk ending up in an American jail. That is not a theory or a political argument – it’s a fact.
On Thursday morning, one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs got on a plane to fly to San Francisco. When he arrived, he was imprisoned. As I write, it is not clear when he will be released.
Dr Mike Lynch is not guilty of anything, even in the US system. He is merely accused by American prosecutors of a fraud he denies. That accusation was enough to see him extradited to the US, and to be stripped of his freedom on arrival while he awaits a trail.
Do business with the US from Britain, and you risk ending up in an American jail. That is not a theory or a political argument – it’s a fact writes DAVID DAVIS (pictured)
The same thing could happen to any other British businessperson who has even the slightest commercial connection to the States.
The extradition treaty between the US and UK negotiated by Tony Blair was sold to Parliament as a measure to deal with terrorists, murderers and paedophiles. Instead, it is being used to pursue traders, bankers and businesspeople – alleged white collar criminals.
It means an entrepreneur who falls out with an American company – as Dr Lynch did when he sold his business to the tech firm HP – can be seized from our shores.
The Home Secretary has precious little power to resist. But when British courts summoned Anne Sacoolas to face justice for causing the death of Harry Dunn by careless driving, they were refused.
Too often, the Treaty creates a one-way street, with Briton after Briton heading into US custody. That has consequences for us all.
I share my Conservative colleagues’ ambitions to make the UK the best place on earth to build businesses. But ask yourself why brilliant founders of new high-tech companies should look to this country when being based here carries such risks?
Dr Mike Lynch is not guilty of anything, even in the US system. He is merely accused by American prosecutors of a fraud he denies writes Mr Davis
If you are the creator of the next Google, or wonder-vaccine, your greatest hope is that your firm gets bought up by a major American company. It will most likely take American investment. If you are based in the UK and any of those deals go sour, you could find yourself in a US jail, just like Dr Lynch. Once you’re there you can expect a very different sort of justice from the sort you would get in the UK.
American plea-bargaining means being threatened with 30 years in a maximum security prison unless you admit guilt in exchange for a shorter sentence. Unsurprisingly, most people do a deal.
That’s not the deal for French citizens in France, or Germans in Germany. Neither nation renders up its own people to US authorities like the British do.
The globally mobile entrepreneurs the UK Government is so keen to attract to this country, and to list their businesses here, have a very good reason to look elsewhere. We cannot continue like this. There should be two urgent amendments to our extradition rulebook. Firstly, the UK should not consent to deport its citizens to the US for non-violent crimes.
Secondly, where an extradition request is made, the Americans should have to present a prima facie case against the accused to the British courts. At the moment, there is no such requirement.
Failing to act on this will hurt the UK. If we don’t change the law, we can kiss goodbye to launches of new high-tech businesses on the London Stock Exchange.
Instead, we will leave thousands of the people building brilliant new companies vulnerable to the same fate as Dr Lynch.
These are very able people. Unless we change this treaty, many will decide running their companies in Britain simply isn’t worth the risk.
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