PM under pressure to review treaty as tech boss extradited to America

PM under pressure to review treaty as tech boss Mike Lynch is extradited to America and faces 20 years in jail

  • PM under pressure to launch review into the ‘unequal’ US extradition deal 

Rishi Sunak was last night under mounting pressure to launch an urgent review into the ‘unequal’ extradition deal that has left a British tech tycoon facing 20 years in a US jail.

Former Justice Secretary Sir Robert Buckland led calls for the Prime Minister to act over the controversial agreement signed off by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 2003.

Sir Robert and fellow Tory MP Will Wragg claimed the treaty – originally drawn up to deal with international terrorists – was now extending the reach of US company laws into Britain. And they warned it was having a ‘chilling effect’ on high-tech firms and entrepreneurs investing in Britain.

Their calls came as Dr Mike Lynch, founder of the Cambridge-based software firm Autonomy that was bought by US computing giant Hewlett-Packard in 2011, was this weekend languishing in a cell in California after being extradited over fraud charges related to the £9 billion deal.

His extradition stands in stark contrast to the case of US diplomat Anne Sacoolas, who killed teenager Harry Dunn in a road accident in 2019. US authorities refused a British request to extradite her and she was handed a suspended sentence by a judge at the Old Bailey while staying in her own country.

Rishi Sunak (pictured this week) was last night under mounting pressure to launch an urgent review into the ‘unequal’ extradition deal that has left a British tech tycoon facing 20 years in a US jail

Mike Lynch, founder of software firm Autonomy, could face 20 years in prison over fraud charges relating to the £9billion sale of his company to US firm Hewlett Packard in 2011

The US-UK extradition treaty was agreed in 2003 at the height of the ‘war on terror’, in a bid to target terrorists and international criminals. It was later enshrined in a UK law that came into force in 2007.

Critics, however, say the deal is one-sided and undermines UK sovereignty because, while the exact figures are unclear, more Britons appear to be extradited to the US than the other way around.

Sir Robert, who is a former Solicitor General, said the deal needed to be urgently reviewed.

‘This was brought in by the Blair Government in a post-9/11 era and now it’s being used in a way that was never envisaged,’ he said. ‘It will act as a brake on the development of high-tech and other businesses in the UK if they could fall under the remit of the US courts.

‘Why would entrepreneurs invest here if suddenly they are drawn into American lawsuits?’

Former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis told the MoS he will attempt to amend the next appropriate Bill in the House of Commons to overturn the existing extradition terms. He vowed to table amendments to stop the extradition of those charged with non-violent crimes and to force the US authorities to present a case against those they are accusing in front of British courts.

Mr Davis said he believed the move would win strong support from senior fellow Tories.

Lynch, 57, was remanded in custody on Thursday by a judge in California after arriving on a commercial flight accompanied by US marshals

‘Dr Lynch is the victim of an imbalanced treaty that allows gross miscarriages of justice to occur,’ he said. ‘If left unchanged, this situation will deter tech entrepreneurs from setting up in the UK.’

Tory MP Dominic Raab, who quit only last month as Justice Secretary, also voiced his concern about the Lynch case. ‘The more we learn about this case, the more concerning it is and the greater the spotlight on the inadequacy of the safeguards in place,’ he said.

And Hazel Grove MP Mr Wragg, chairman of the Commons Public Administration And Constitutional Affairs Committee, said: ‘There must be an immediate review of the Blair-era agreement. I shall be writing to Ministers to ask for this.

‘An unfair, unequal deal signed 20 years ago must be reviewed as soon as possible.’

Dr Lynch, once lauded as the UK’s answer to Microsoft founder Bill Gates, fought extradition for four years, arguing that he ought to be tried in Britain.

He ran out of legal avenues last month and is believed to have agreed to travel to the US and face prosecution on the understanding that he would remain on bail.

However, Lynch has now been ordered by a US judge to pay an £80 million bond, hand over his passport and be placed under 24-hour armed guard – which he has to pay for – at a property in San Francisco. He will remain in custody until these bail conditions are met.

Dr Lynch, who is married and has two teenage children, pleaded not guilty to the 17 charges he faces. A trial date has yet to be set.

The aggressive pursuit of Dr Lynch by US authorities echoes the case of the so-called ‘Natwest Three’ – Giles Darby, David Bermingham and Gary Mulgrew – who were extradited to the US in 2006, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and were each sentenced to 37 months in prison.

Mr Bermingham said: ‘The treaty was a gift to the US by Tony Blair in 2003, supposedly to help in the war against terror. It was the act of a craven and naive Government.

‘Since then, successive UK Governments of all hues have lacked the spine to do what is necessary to fix the problem, despite being well aware what needs to be done.’

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