The British government approved the extradition of Irish-born Mike Lynch to the United States to face criminal fraud charges, hours after a London judge ruled the tech tycoon was dishonest in the $11 billion (€9.9 billion) sale of his company.
The extradition decision by home secretary Priti Patel doesn't mean Mr Lynch will be getting on a plane anytime soon. He can appeal the order and a separate court's decision allowing his extradition.
The decision is the latest in more than a decade of twists and turns following the 2011 sale of Mr Lynch's Autonomy to Hewlett Packard. A year after the sale, the Silicon Valley hardware giant wrote down the value of the deal by $8.8 billion.
In 2015, HP filed civil suit against Mr Lynch and the company’s vice-president of finance, seeking $5 billion in damages. Last Friday, the British judge in that case said HP was “induced” into buying the company.
Mr Lynch, who earned more than $800 million from the deal, was “well aware” of the fraudulent strategies to dress up the British-based software company ahead of the purchase, the judge said.
The US government in 2018 charged Mr Lynch and the finance chief with 13 criminal counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy, alleging they artificially inflated sales figures in a bid to meet or exceed analysts’ quarterly expectations, keep the share price high and make the company appear attractive to a buyer.
Mr Lynch's lawyer, Chris Morvillo, said he will file an appeal with the High Court in London.
“Dr Lynch firmly denies the charges brought against him in the US and will continue to fight to establish his innocence,” Mr Morvillo said in an emailed statement. “He is a British citizen who ran a British company in Britain subject to British laws and rules, and that is where the matter should be resolved. This is not the end of the battle – far from it.”
The British government's decision on one of the country's most high-profile tech businessmen – a one-time adviser to former prime minister David Cameron – was viewed as a test of the UK-US extradition treaty, which critics call highly unequal. The US has refused one UK extradition request, while the UK has refused 24.
Last month, a judge allowed the extradition of Julian Assange to the US to face charges, a ruling that is being appealed.
“Under the Extradition Act 2003, the secretary of state must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made,” the Home Office said in an emailed statement.
Mr Lynch has been battling extradition in the UK courts. He lost a first attempt when a judge said in July he should be sent to the US. He’d insisted from the outset that the case should not be heard in the US, asserting that none of the alleged misconduct took place overseas.