Autonomy founder Mike Lynch's US extradition hearing will be in February 2021
Criminal court sets trial date as High Court continues pondering civil suit judgment
Former Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch will fight the US government's attempt to extradite him over HP's $11bn purchase of Autonomy Corporation in February next year.
At a preliminary hearing this morning, District Judge Griffiths told the court she had received an email from District Judge Michael Snow, the trial judge, agreeing a provisional timetable for January "but that turns out to be wrong."
The extradition attempt was filed by the American government even though the High Court of England and Wales has not yet delivered its judgment in the £3.3bn civil fraud trial filed by HPE against Lynch and his one-time CFO Sushovan Hussein on this side of the pond.
Lynch is accused by the US of fraudulently pumping Autonomy's reported revenues to make it a falsely attractive buyout prospect. He denies all wrongdoing, insisting that Autonomy auditors Deloitte signed off everything his company's accountants did.
This morning's hearing was to set a date for the hearing of the main extradition case, though both prosecution and defence had to leave halfway through and sort out confusion over trial dates. Lynch attended in person and spoke only to confirm his name and year of birth.
The case will be heard on 8 February 2021, with judgment expected by the end of that month.
Video link for witnesses
District Judge Griffiths explained that Judge Snow had "assumed this was listed for five days on 11th January but that turns out to be wrong. I don't know where, I was assuming the parties weren't available."
Prosecuting, Mark Summers QC (who is also defending Julian Assange in a separate extradition case) replied: "We're working towards that date."
Alex Bailin QC, Lynch's barrister for the extradition proceedings, added that the two barristers would "go to the [court's] international jurisdiction office" to sort out the confusion, triggering a half-hour break in proceedings.
Later Summers told the court: "We have learned today madam, the matter has been transferred to District Judge Snow. There is a week reasonably close to the existing date that the parties can accommodate, madam, and District Judge Snow can, that would be the 8th February. Madam may I advise you to adjourn the case straight through to 8th February."
The judge replied: "You can email them to Judge Snow if that's alright simply because I don't know anything about this case* other than the limited emails I told you about so it probably makes sense, I'm sure, if it doesn't interfere with the final hearing date."
Bailin added that he had a couple of matters to raise: "The first is that we'll need CVP [Common Video Platform, HM Courts and Tribunal’s service own-brand video call service] as a backup because some of the witnesses are American. Though they'll be testifying in person it makes sense that CVP is in place."
Confidential medical evidence
The other matter, he said, was a legal application for medical evidence in Lynch's favour to be kept confidential. No more was said about that but it is common for extradition defendants to claim that US prisons' medical arrangements are substandard compared to care at home in the UK.
Lynch himself was locked in the glass-walled dock, recessed in the pale hospital green of the courtroom, for both halves of his hearing. He wore a light blue fabric mask and a dark suit. Spotting him as he exited the dock after the abortive first try and immediately blended into the loose throng of suited lawyers waiting for their hearings to be called on, the judge apologised and told him: "We will deal with your case in a few minutes."
Former Cabinet minister David Davis MP has previously called for the extradition proceedings to be halted until the High Court judgment is delivered. Davis said that if HPE loses its civil case in the UK "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."
Lynch is currently on conditional bail. Extradition proceedings continue. ®
* It is common for the early procedural stages of a criminal case to be heard by a different judge from the trial judge. Magistrates' courts across the country are filled with 15-minute hearings where trial dates are set, legal directions are made about evidence to be served and bail conditions are renewed – or, sometimes, varied.