Mike Lynch, the billionaire founder of software company Autonomy, can be extradited to the United States, a London court said on Thursday in a case that is seen as a major test of the UK courts’ willingness to block the removal of business leaders to the US.
Lynch, one of the UK’s best-known tech entrepreneurs, has been indicted in the US on 17 counts of conspiracy and fraud related to Hewlett-Packard’s $ 11 billion purchase of Autonomy. dollars in 2011.
Lynch is accused of allegedly manipulating Autonomy’s accounts, which resulted in HP paying an additional $ 5 billion for the company. He denies any wrongdoing.
His extradition case was heard earlier this year, but hearings have been adjourned to await the outcome of a High Court ruling civil fraud lawsuit brought against Lynch by Hewlett Packard Enterprise regarding the sale of Autonomy.
But after learning that the High Court decision was not due for several months, District Judge Michael Snow told Lynch on Thursday that he had dismissed his case and did not believe the extradition was an abuse of procedure. He gave Lynch 14 days to appeal the decision.
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 much of the alleged criminal activity has occurred. took place in the UK.
His lawyer Alex Bailin QC argued in Westminster Magistrates’ Court earlier this year that the UK’s Serious Fraud Office had reserved the right to prosecute Lynch in the UK if his extradition was blocked. The SFO dropped its investigation in 2015, saying it had ceded part of its investigation to the United States.
The US government argued that Lynch should be sued in the United States because “America was the location of the intended victims of the fraud” and HP’s shareholders were primarily based in the United States.
The case has broader significance for UK business executives, setting an important precedent for those accused of wrongdoing. Bailin said at the extradition hearing earlier this year that corporate executives should be “held accountable here” because “the United States is not the global marshal of business.”
The UK-US Extradition Treaty signed with the US in 2003 has long been criticized by MPs for being pro-US and used to target white-collar suspects as well as terrorists.
District Judge Michael Snow, who heard the case in Westminster Magistrates’ Court, did not have to decide Lynch’s guilt or innocence of the charges, but simply whether the case meets the legal criteria for extradition.
Despite the decision, extradition may involve a lengthy appeal process. The losing party can appeal to the High Court as well as the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.