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29 January, 2020 - 23:44 By Tony Quested

Home Secretary urged to bar US bid to extradite Mike Lynch

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis has made an impassioned plea to the Home Secretary to ensure Cambridge entrepreneur and former Autonomy boss Dr Mike Lynch is not extradited to the US to face trial on wire fraud allegations by Hewlett Packard and risk an appalling ordeal.

In a bitter attack in Parliament on America’s interpretation of justice, Davis urged Priti Patel not to allow the extradition the US is seeking until the UK courts have made a decision in the action between the parties in Britain that has been conducted in the last year.

HP is alleging that Autonomy chiefs effectively cooked the books ahead of an $11.7 billion sale to the American giant in 21011. Dr Lynch and senior management colleagues say HP knew what they had bought and cocked up the integration of the Cambridge software business into its hardware dominated empire.

Davis said Britain risked being suckered into a serious miscarriage of justice if it allowed America to get its hands on Dr Lynch. He said: “Since we agreed the UK-US Extradition Treaty in 2003, it has been abundantly clear that the British government of the day struck a truly dreadful deal. Asymmetric, sometimes ineffective, and sometimes unfair on British citizens.

“Countless examples down the years have shown this. From the NatWest Three to Christopher Tappin, from Gary McKinnon to Anne Sacoolas, the person charged with causing death by dangerous driving for the death of Harry Dunn.

“We now risk yet another serious miscarriage of justice with the US extradition request for Dr Mike Lynch – a successful and entrepreneurial British businessman.

“After a lengthy and costly civil UK trial, Dr Lynch is now awaiting judgement. I am prevented from commenting further on that case due to subjudice rules – although this is a trial by judge alone, not by jury, so the possibility of undue influence is near zero.

“But Dr Lynch is now facing almost identical criminal charges in the US in yet another aggressive attempt by American authorities to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction. 

“Despite the Serious Fraud Office deciding there was no basis for a prosecution in the UK, US authorities are now doggedly pursuing his extradition.

“Civil cases are decided on the balance of probabilities, a much lower hurdle than criminal cases, which have to be decided beyond reasonable doubt. 

“So if Hewlett Packard fail to win their civil trial against Dr Lynch here in the UK – based on a much lower standard of proof than the criminal test – then it is inconceivable that the US authorities would win a near identical criminal case if it was fairly tried. Accordingly, the case for extradition would evaporate.

“So the only sensible course of action available to the Home Secretary is to delay the extradition until the UK Judge has made his decision. This case is important because it is characteristic of the way the American judicial system operates to favour American businesses.

“The US has a history of using its broad extradition treaties to cast a wide legal net around the world. As with Mike Lynch, many of these cases are only tenuously linked to the United States.

“They all have common themes. They are all British citizens; the alleged crimes all took place on British soil; the UK system failed to protect them; and the US authorities ultimately got their way.

“Since 2003, 80 per cent of UK extraditions to the US were for non-violent crimes. This seems like strange behaviour for a country that convicted no CEOs for crimes during the financial crisis.

“Dr Lynch is being charged with several counts of wire fraud – an offence originally designed to make a state crime into a federal crime so they could be prosecuted by Federal authorities.

“Its application quickly expanded, prompting one Federal Judge to say they have ‘been invoked to impose criminal penalties upon a staggeringly broad swathe of behaviour‘.

“Now, that staggeringly broad swathe is being applied across national borders. In essence, a legal playbook designed to catch and convict mobsters and racketeers has first been repurposed to catch white collar offenders, and now that repurposing has been extended outside American borders into what should be other countries’ jurisdictions.”

Davis added: “If Dr Lynch is unfortunate enough to be extradited and either denied bail or found guilty, he will face appalling conditions – conditions that are much worse than anything found in the UK. He will likely find himself in a high-security prison in a cramped cell with gang members, drug dealers or murderers.

“The US imprisons a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country in the world. There are many reasons for this, but no doubt the ferocious use of plea bargains is a major factor.

“Once charges have been brought and after Dr Lynch has spent months in appalling conditions, prosecutors will almost certainly try to convince him to admit guilt to a lesser charge. 

“They will promise a shorter sentence, some of which could be served in the UK, and they will remind him of the huge financial cost of a protracted and complex trial.

“If he refuses, he will face the prospect of a lengthy sentence and the costs of the trial could run into the millions. The rules are set up for him to fail. He will be told he must run his defence from his own prison cell where he can only have one ream of paper at a time.

“To put this in perspective, Dr Lynch’s civil trial in the UK has so far cost £40 million, involved over 11 million documents. The opening arguments were 1,067 pages long and the closing arguments were 4,494 pages.

“One can easily see how someone in Dr Lynch’s position would be coerced into giving in and admitting guilt. I would not call that a plea bargain. I would call it blackmail. This is nothing like normal British justice. It effectively turns the presumption of innocence into a presumption of guilt.

“Mike Lynch could be arrested any day now and sent to the United States to go through this appalling ordeal. But I hope not. I hope the Home Secretary will use every legal mechanism available to delay this extradition until the judge has made his decision in the civil trial.

“We need to give British citizens, businessmen and entrepreneurs the protection, certainty and the justice that they deserve.”

A spokesman for Dr Lynch said he had no comment to make on either David Davis’s intervention or attempts to extradite him.

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