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Autonomy finance chief in court over soured $11bn sale to HP

The former finance chief of Autonomy will answer fraud charges in an American courtroom this week over the bitterly disputed $11bn takeover of the British software developer by Hewlett-Packard.

Sushovan Hussain is to appear at a pre-trial hearing in San Francisco on Thursday amid accusations he duped HP into overpaying for Autonomy by inflating its profit figures.

The 52-year-old is expected to plead not guilty to the criminal charges that carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. If found guilty, he could also have to pay a penalty of several million dollars.

Hussain is accused of being at the centre of a “fraudulent scheme” to make Autonomy appear more profitable than it really was.

In 2011, HP swooped on Autonomy in what was then the largest-ever takeover of a European technology company. But the deal soon turned sour: a year after completing the acquisition, HP slashed the value of the Cambridge-based Autonomy by $8.8bn. The Silicon Valley giant accused founder Mike Lynch and his fellow directors of tricking it into paying too much.

Lynch and the former Autonomy directors have strenuously denied the charges, attributing the write-down to HP’s bungled efforts to integrate the company.

Hussain’s trial is expected to begin in March. The former finance chief hired John Keker, the lawyer used by Lance Armstrong during the US justice department’s investigation into doping by professional cyclists.

HP said yesterday that the case was “a significant step toward holding Mr Hussain accountable for his alleged role in defrauding HP”.

Keker recently said Hussain was “innocent of wrongdoing, defrauded no one and acted at all times with the highest standards of honesty, integrity and competence”. Hussain would be “acquitted at trial”, Keker added.

HP is suing the Autonomy founder and the ex-directors for $5bn (£4bn) in London, while Lynch is counter-suing for $150m in damages. That case is due to be heard in the High Court in 2018.