MAGGIE PAGANO: Dangers of a US Lynch mob

Dangers of a US Lynch mob: Government must revisit extradition treaty with the US and curb country’s overreach, says MAGGIE PAGANO

Entrepreneur: Mike Lynch

Entrepreneur: Mike Lynch

Mike Lynch, one of Britain’s most successful tech entrepreneurs, will be confined to an address in San Francisco – guarded by private security – once he stumps up bail of $100million after being extradited on Thursday to the US where he will stand trial on criminal fraud charges.

The astonishing high level of bail has been set because, according to US court filings, Lynch is considered such a ‘serious risk of flight’ after so many years of fighting extradition. 

Not only was the founder of software group Autonomy accompanied on his flight to California by the US Marshals Service, but he has to pay for the private security guards himself.

It is a chilling scene not just for him, but for the British business community.

Executives fear that the recent High Court ruling refusing Lynch permission to appeal his extradition sets an unhealthy precedent. They fear that any fall-out from future trans-Atlantic business deals could land them in the US courts many years later.

On a more fundamental level, business leaders, and an increasing number of politicians, have serious doubts about the process itself. Former Conservative minister, David Davis, has spoken out about whether Lynch can expect a fair trial in the US.

Davis has warned how the drawn out legal process of ‘ferocious intimidation’ relies on complex plea bargains, a process that usually results in a 97 per cent conviction rate.

They are right. Lynch’s hijacking sets a dangerous precedent whereby any British businessman or woman who finds themselves up against a powerful US corporation can be bullied through the UK courts and ensnared as a victim.

Yet Lynch is a British national and Autonomy, which is at the heart of the criminal charges, was a British company at the time of its $11billion takeover by Hewlett-Packard in 2011. The deal was subject to UK takeover rules. Ipso facto, the case should be tried here. 

Whether Lynch is guilty or not of the charges brought against him after HP alleged that he duped them into overpaying for Autonomy by inflating the numbers, he should still be allowed a fair trial. It is doubtful he will get one. Quite the reverse. 

The US authorities look to be licking their lips at the prospect of more high drama and big bucks. More worrying is that the extradition agreement between the two countries looks increasingly one way.

The death of 19-year-old Harry Dunn, who was killed by Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a CIA operative, while driving on the wrong side of the road in the UK, shows the extent of the imbalance. The UK failed to extradite Sacoolas. She pleaded guilty at court via video link, and was given an eight months prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. Hardly justice.

The difference in the treatment between these two cases is shocking – a suspended prison sentence for death versus potential decades for alleged fraud.

Lynch, who denies HP’s accusations, could face 20 years in prison if found guilty. The Government must revisit its treaty with the US and curb the country’s overreach. Sovereignty matters.

Another post gone

The top seat at Royal Mail is turning out to be more of an ejector seat. Simon Thompson is the fourth boss in five years to have vacated the role. But did he go or was he pushed? Some say Thompson had simply had enough. 

Others suggest he was forced out after the year-long bitter fight with the unions which got him into such hot water with MPs – and his boss.

The good news is that Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union have finally agreed on a decent deal.

If Royal Mail gets it right, it has a bright future so it is important that all sides can work properly together. Smart postal and delivery services have become the lifeblood of the country. Interestingly, despite its Test-and-Trace experience, healthcare is an area it wants to expand. Watch this space.

Twitter to come

Oh, how Elon Musk likes to tease. He tweets that he has found a new Twitter boss – a she – and all hell breaks loose.

The name of every top US female executive is sent spinning into the ether. The search doesn’t take long. 

Linda Yaccarino, advertising supremo at media giant NBC Universal, soon emerges at the top of the list. NBC confirms she’s leaving. Then Musk tweets that Yaccarino is the new girl on board. With luck, Yaccarino has a sense of humour, and won’t curb his enthusiasm for hanging us all on a thread. It’s too much fun.

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