LONDON: British tech billionaire Michael Lynch begins his fight against extradition to the United States to face charges over the sale of the software company he co-founded on Tuesday, in a test of an extradition treaty critics say is lopsided.
U.S. prosecutors want Lynch to stand trial on 17 counts, including securities fraud, connected to the sale of Autonomy to Hewlett-Packard (HP) in a US$11 billion deal in 2011.
Lynch categorically denies the charges.
HP has already sued Lynch and Autonomy's former finance chief, Sushovan Hussain, in London for US$5 billion, claiming they fraudulently inflated the company's value before the sale.
Judgment in the civil trial, during which Lynch took the stand to argue that HP mismanagement destroyed Autonomy's value, is awaited.
U.S. prosecutors added more charges to their indictment days before the civil case started in 2019.
Lynch's lawyer, Alex Bailin, has said the U.S. claim of jurisdiction is unwarranted.
"These matters concern a British citizen, UK-based conduct, a UK-listed plc, culminating in a UK civil trial in which judgment is pending – these matters unquestionably belong here in the UK," he has said.
He is expected to use a provision called the "forum bar" to argue against the request. It gives courts the power to refuse extradition if it is more appropriate to hear the case in Britain.
"The forum bar exists to provide real protection against this interventionist type of action and this, we will say, is a paradigm forum bar case," Bailin said.
The case raises questions about Britain's extradition treaty with the United States, an agreement that Prime Minster Boris Johnson has previously said is "imbalanced".
Five former British cabinet ministers, including four from the ruling Conservative Party, signed a letter to the Times newspaper last month arguing that Lynch must not be extradited.
"The government cannot stand by as another Briton risks being delivered like this to the U.S. justice system," the letter said.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Alex Richardson)