By Aritz Parra, Renata Brito and Barry Hatton | The Associated Press
John McAfee, the creator of the McAfee antivirus software, has been found dead in his prison cell near Barcelona, a government official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Authorities said the cause of death is under investigation.
Hours earlier, a Spanish court issued a preliminary ruling in favor of extraditing the 75-year-old tycoon to the United States to face tax-related criminal charges that could result in decades in prison.
Security staff at Brians 2 penitentiary near the northeastern Spanish town tried to revive him, but the prison’s medical team eventually certified him dead, according to a statement from the Catalan regional government.
“A judicial delegation has arrived to investigate the causes of death,” the statement said, adding that “everything points to death by suicide.”
The statement did not identify McAfee by name, but said he was a 75-year-old US citizen awaiting extradition to his country. A Catalan government source familiar with the event who was not authorized to be named in the media confirmed to the AP that the dead man was McAfee.
Spain’s national court ruled on Monday in favor of the extradition of McAfee, who had argued in a hearing earlier this month that the charges brought against him by prosecutors in Tenessee were politically motivated and that he would pass the rest of his life in prison if returned to the United States
The court’s decision was made public on Wednesday and was subject to appeal. Any final extradition order would also have to obtain the approval of the Spanish Cabinet.
The entrepreneur was arrested last October at Barcelona International Airport. A judge then ordered that McAfee be held in jail pending the outcome of an extradition hearing.
The defense of the cybersecurity pioneer had argued that the extradition request was politically motivated and therefore not appropriate. He disagreed with the current monetary system, which has made him “public enemy No. 1”, according to court documents released Wednesday. The United States calculates that McAfee owed more than $4.2 million in taxes, according to the documents.
The decision came as the latest setback for McAfee’s burgeoning legal troubles. In March, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission also charged him with hiding cryptocurrency revenue of over $23 million. Manhattan US attorney Audrey Strauss said McAfee “leveraged a widely used social media platform and the enthusiasm of investors in the emerging cryptocurrency market to make millions through lies and the trickery”.
McAfee led an eccentric life after selling his stake in the antivirus software company that bears his name in the early 1990s.
He twice ran long-term candidacies for US president and participated in the Libertarian Party presidential debates in 2016.
In July 2019, McAfee was released from custody in the Dominican Republic after he and five other people were suspected of traveling on a yacht carrying high-caliber weapons, ammunition and military-style equipment, it said at the time. Caribbean island officials.
McAfee was charged last October in Tennessee with tax evasion after he failed to report income from promoting cryptocurrencies while doing consulting work, speaking engagements and selling the rights to the story. of his life for a documentary. Criminal charges carry a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
The last post from McAfee’s Twitter account was a retweet of a Father’s Day message from his wife Janice McAfee.
“The eight months John has spent in prison in Spain have been particularly difficult for his mental and physical health, as well as financially, but he is not discouraged from continuing to speak truth to power,” he said. .
The US Embassy in Madrid did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.