Extradited Autonomy founder Mike Lynch sues SFO over data request

Mike Lynch, the technology tycoon once lauded as the UK’s answer to Bill Gates and now facing criminal fraud charges in the US, is suing the Serious Fraud Office.

Lynch, who was extradited to the US last year to face trial over allegations he duped Hewlett-Packard into overpaying when it struck an $11bn (£8.6bn) deal to buy his software firm Autonomy in 2011, has filed a data protection claim against the SFO in the high court in London.

Details of the case have yet to be made public but Lynch, whose trial in the US is due to start on 18 March, has hired the law firm Pallas Partners to pursue the legal action against the director of the SFO, Nick Ephgrave. A spokesperson for Lynch declined to comment on the case.

After the Autonomy deal, Hewlett-Packard took an $8.8bn writedown in the firm’s value after discovering what it called “serious accounting improprieties”, blaming Lynch for perpetrating a $5bn fraud, an accusation he denies.

In 2022, Lynch lost a six-year civil fraud case in the UK, with the high court judge ruling that HP had been induced into overpaying for the takeover because of fraud perpetrated by Lynch and Autonomy’s former finance director Sushovan Hussain, who is in jail in the US after being found guilty of fraud relating to the same deal.

Lynch has now been charged by the US government with 17 counts of fraud over the deal, which enriched the billionaire by about $800m.

The SFO opened an investigation into Autonomy and Lynch in 2013 but ended it in 2015, saying there was not enough evidence to secure a conviction of the software firm’s former executive. The SFO then ceded jurisdiction over aspects of the case to US authorities.

Evidence provided by the SFO, which was also at one time an Autonomy customer, has been used in the US case against Lynch. The SFO deal with Autonomy is one of dozens of deals that US prosecutors have said they intend to use as evidence.

The SFO has refused Lynch’s request for the data which has prompted the legal action.

Anthony Hanratty, a senior associate at the law firm Withers, said: “During UK extradition proceedings, a lawyer for the SFO provided a statement of belief to the court that the UK was not the most appropriate forum for the prosecution, although the SFO had previously investigated the matter before ceding control to the US, citing evidential issues.”

Hanratty added: “Access to any material relating to the defendant which was the basis for such a decision could result in valuable evidence being obtained which would not ordinarily be disclosed during the trial process.”

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The SFO says it did not oppose Lynch’s extradition to the US for reasons including that it was practical for all the prosecutions to take place in one jurisdiction, where HP is based.

Lynch, who has pleaded not guilty and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, is now under house arrest in San Francisco.

After landing in the US, Lynch was accompanied by the United States Marshals Service and a court ordered him to pay a $100m bond and called in 24-hour armed guards, deeming the billionaire to be a flight risk.

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