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Autonomy founder Lynch scores extradition decision delay as Home Sec ponders sending him to US

All eyes on Priti Patel as High Court case recedes into insignificance

Autonomy Trial Home Secretary Priti Patel has granted Autonomy founder Mike Lynch a two month grace period on the decision to extradite him, according to reports.

Lynch's waiting period to see if Patel will order his extradition to stand trial on criminal charges in the US will now end on 29 November, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Lynch's extradition was previously confirmed by Westminster Magistrates' Court in July, with District Judge Michael Snow ordering the exec to be sent to America. Once extradition is approved by a magistrate the decision goes to the Home Secretary, whose ruling is normally a formality.

A spokesman for Lynch denied all knowledge of the delay, claiming the entrepreneur had first learnt about it when it was published by the newspaper.

A Home Office spokesperson told The Register: "Extensions for making a decision on any given case can be made under the Extradition Act 2003. The Home Secretary is giving full consideration to the issues raised in this case."

Section 99(4) of the Extradition Act 2003 allows the Home Secretary to ask for a judge's permission to extend the usual two month time limit for deciding whether or not to extradite an alleged criminal. It also says "this subsection may apply more than once", with the newspaper pointing out that a 7 day delay was previously granted.

The legal route for a US extradition is explained in some detail on GOV.UK. Although Lynch has lodged an appeal at the High Court against District Judge Snow's decision, senior judges can't hear the appeal until Patel makes a formal decision. Doubtless the Autonomy founder is hoping the Home Secretary is in no rush to make up her mind.

Good luck – you'll need it

Lynch's chances of avoiding extradition on purely legal grounds are small. District Judge Snow rejected virtually all of his legal arguments, dismissing his witnesses as either so biased they weren't worth listening to or irrelevant – embarrassing given one of those witnesses was his lead UK solicitor. The choice of live witnesses at the magistrates' court was thought to be unusual, leading some informed sources to remark to The Register that Lynch's legal strategy was curious to them.

One witness, Joel Sickler, was well known to prosecuting barrister Mark Summers QC, having appeared on Summers' side during Julian Assange's extradition trial. It seemed odd to call a witness whose idiosyncrasies would be well known to the barrister cross-examining him. Calling Lynch's own solicitor (Kelwin Nicholls) to testify in his defence rather than other experts also caused some scratching of heads among the people with whom The Register discussed the case - and clearly DJ Snow, 15 years a veteran of the criminal bench, had no patience with the dense textual analysis that Nicholls presented him.

If Patel rejects the Lynch extradition it will almost certainly cause a minor diplomatic row, with the US government having spent millions of dollars over the last few years pursuing ex-Autonomy execs. Former CFO Sushovan Hussain was jailed for five years in 2019 and lost his appeal the following year. Others, including former finance vice president Stephen Chamberlain, are awaiting trial in the US.

Chris Morvillo, Lynch's US solicitor, previously predicted that if extradited his client would probably stand trial in 2023. For now, however, the extradition proceedings continue.

There is no sign of judgment from the long-running civil High Court case brought against Lynch by HPE. Trial judge Mr Justice Hildyard last heard arguments in the case during February this year, having already had a year to deliberate over his ruling by that point. The judge was aided by three judicial assistants (junior lawyers seconded to the judge's bench) at various stages during the trial.

Not only has this case contained one of the longest cross-examinations in modern English legal history, it might set the record for the longest wait for judgment too. Although an appeal seemed like a legal certainty, the extradition proceedings have overtaken the civil trial and could yet render it irrelevant; an English civil judgment in Lynch's favour won't help him if he's been remanded into a US prison cell. ®

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