The Government should not allow Autonomy billionaire Mike Lynch to be extradited to the US over fraud charges because the UK has "surrendered sovereignty" over its justice system for "too long", former cabinet ministers have argued.
The entrepreneur is fighting an attempt by US prosecutors to extradite him after HP accused Mr Lynch of presiding over a multi-billion dollar fraud relating to the sale of the Autonomy in 2011 for £6.6bn.
A US judge ordered in October that Mr Lynch will not spend time in prison during his trial. However, he could spend a decade in prison if found guilty.
However, former cabinet ministers David Davis, Andrew Mitchell, Lord Maude of Horsham, Lord Deben and Sir Vince Cable have signed an open letter to The Times calling on the Government to block US attempts to extradite Mr Lynch.
“The Serious Fraud Office considered the case involving Mike Lynch and decided there was nothing worthy of prosecution. The High Court picked over the issues for ten months,” they wrote.
“Any British businessman or woman who finds themselves at odds with a powerful US company could face the same fate,” they warned. “That means facing a system where prosecutors cut deals offering their own witnesses immunity, while those who want to testify for the defendant risk being dubbed ‘co-conspirators’ and prosecuted.”
The letter highlighted Boris Johnson’s criticism of the UK’s extradition treaty with the US.
It said: "The Prime Minister accepts the treaty is unbalanced. The Foreign Secretary has railed against it. Politicians on all sides want it changed.
"We’ve surrendered sovereignty over our own justice system for too long. The Government cannot stand by as another Briton risks being delivered like this to the US justice system."
Speaking to Times Radio on Tuesday morning, Mr Davis said the UK’s extradition treaty with the US had "become used by the American Department of Justice almost as a way of extending the arm of American law".
He added: "Everybody knows that there’s a real, real problem with the treaty.
"The trouble is, the question is, are we willing to take the Americans on and say, ‘look, this isn’t working properly, it’s very unfair’? People are extradited to the US who would not be extradited back to the UK."
He highlighted the case of American Anne Sacoolas, who was charged with allegedly causing teenager Harry Dunn’s death by dangerous driving after a road crash outside a US military base in Northamptonshire in August 2019.
Sacoolas was able to return to her home country after the US government asserted diplomatic immunity on her behalf, with a Home Office extradition request later refused by the US State Department.
Other signatories of the letter include lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman, Dame Margaret Hodge and former Barclays chairman Marcus Agius.
A decision on Mr Lynch’s extradition to the US is likely to take place following a multi-day hearing in London in the coming weeks. The entrepreneur has requested that he face trial over the charges in the UK, where Autonomy was headquartered.
Mr Lynch will this week enter a second year of waiting for a verdict in a civil fraud trial in the High Court, where HP brought a $5bn (£3.6bn) damages claim against Mr Lynch and his former finance head Sushovan Hussain. Both men deny the allegations.