High-profile figures rally to defend software entrepreneur from extradition
- Credit: Andy Abbott
Ex ministers and former business leaders have lined up to defend a Suffolk tech entrepreneur from extradition to the United States.
Mike Lynch faces fraud charges in the US after it was claimed he overstated the value of his Cambridge-based software firm Autonomy ahead of an £8bn sale to Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 2011.
The deal went sour and ended in acrimony and accusations, and the US authorities decided to bring fraud charges.
Dr Lynch continues to maintain his innocence and a number of high-profile figures have now signed a letter published in a national newspaper arguing that the British legal system should deal with the case, among them Suffolk's Lord Deben who as John Gummer served as MP for the Suffolk Coastal constituency for many years.
Dr Lynch's extradition case is listed for a hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court on February 8.
"The Serious Fraud Office considered the case involving Mike Lynch and decided there was nothing worthy of prosecution," the letter states.
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"The High Court picked over the issues for 10 months. The British legal system is quite capable of dealing with this. But our extradition treaty with the US can mean none of that matters."
It warned against the UK "surrendering sovereignty" through its extradition treaty with the US.
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"Any British businessman or woman who finds themselves at odds with a powerful US company could face the same fate," it said.
"That means facing a system where prosecutors cut deals offering their own witnesses immunity, while those who want to testify for the defendant risk being dubbed 'co-conspirators' and prosecuted. This is not justice."
An extradition request for Mr Lynch, who has a PhD in signal processing from the University of Cambridge, was submitted to British authorities in November 2019.
HP is seeking damages of £3.7bn from Dr Lynch in a civil case in London's High Court, but he claims any loss was down to the tech giant's mismanagement of the acquisition.
Signatories to the letter opposing his extradition include former Brexit secretary David Davis, former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, former minister for the Cabinet Office Lord Maude of Horsham, former environment secretary Lord Deben, ex-Liberal Democrat MP Sir Vince Cable, former director-general of the BBC Lord Hall of Birkenhead, former Barclays bank chairman Marcus Agius and Sir John Rose, former chief executive of Rolls-Royce.