Creator of McAfee antivirus software dies in Spanish prison

MADRID (AP) — John McAfee, the creator of McAfee antivirus software, was found dead in his jail cell near Barcelona in an apparent suicide on Wednesday, hours after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the United States. to face tax charges punishable by decades in prison, authorities said.

The eccentric cryptocurrency promoter and tax opponent whose history of legal troubles spanned from Tennessee to Central America and the Caribbean was discovered at Brians 2 Penitentiary in northeastern Spain. Security personnel attempted to revive him, but the prison medical team eventually certified his death, according to a statement from the Catalan regional government.

“A judicial delegation has arrived to investigate the causes of death,” he said, adding that “everything points to death by suicide.”

The statement did not identify McAfee by name, but said the deceased man was a 75-year-old US citizen awaiting extradition to his country. A Catalan government official familiar with the case who was not authorized to be named in the media confirmed to The Associated Press that it was McAfee.

Spain’s national court ruled on Monday in favor of the extradition of McAfee, 75, who argued during a hearing earlier this month that the charges brought against him by Tennessee prosecutors were politically motivated and that he would spend the rest of his life in prison if he returned to the United States

The court’s decision was made public on Wednesday and could be appealed, with any final extradition order also having to be approved by the Spanish cabinet.

McAfee was arrested last October at Barcelona International Airport and has since been in jail awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings. The arrest follows charges the same month in Tennessee for tax evasion after he failed to report income from the promotion of cryptocurrencies while doing consulting work, speaking engagements and selling the rights to the story of his life for a documentary. The criminal charges carried a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

Nishay Sanan, the Chicago-based attorney defending him in those cases, said over the phone that McAfee “will always be remembered as a fighter.”

“He tried to love this country but the US government made his existence impossible,” Sanan said. “They tried to erase it, but they failed.”

The lawyer said Spanish authorities had not given his legal team a cause of death and he wanted to know if there were video cameras in McAfee’s cell or in the prison.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Memphis declined to comment.

Tennessee prosecutors had argued that McAfee owed the U.S. government $4,214,105 in taxes before fines or interest for unreported income during the five tax years from 2014 to 2018, according to a Spanish court document seen by AP. But in this week’s decision, the National Court judge agreed to extradite him only to face charges from 2016 to 2018.

Born in Gloucestershire, England in 1945 as John David McAfee, he founded McAfee Associates in 1987 and led an eccentric life after selling his stake in the anti-virus software company that bears his name in the early 1990s.

McAfee had two long runs for the US presidency and appeared in the Libertarian Party presidential debates in 2016. He dabbled in yoga, ultralight aircraft and the production of herbal medicines.

In 2012, he was wanted for questioning in connection with the death of Gregory Viant Faull, shot in early November 2012 on the island of Belize where the men lived.

McAfee told AP at the time that he was being persecuted by the Belizean government. Belizean police denied this, saying they were simply investigating a crime that McAfee may have had information about. Then Prime Minister Dean Barrow expressed doubts about McAfee’s mental state, saying: “I don’t mean to be mean to this gentleman, but I think he is extremely paranoid, even bonkers. “

A Florida court in 2019 ordered McAfee to pay $25 million to Faull’s estate in a wrongful death claim.

In July of the same year, he was released from detention in the Dominican Republic after he and five other people were suspected of traveling on a yacht carrying large caliber weapons, ammunition and military-style equipment.

McAfee told Wired Magazine in 2012 that his father, a heavy drinker and “a very unhappy man,” committed suicide when McAfee was 15. “Every day I wake up with him,” he told Wired.

He lived for a time in Lexington, Tennessee, a rural town of about 7,800 people about 100 miles east of Memphis. In a 2015 interview with WBBJ-TV, McAfee said he only felt comfortable when armed. The television network reported that he chose to be interviewed with a loaded gun in each hand.

“Very little makes me feel safe and safer other than being armed in my room with the door locked,” McAfee told the station.

In one of his last known media interviews, with Britain’s The Independent newspaper last November, McAfee said his prison experience in Spain was a “fascinating adventure” and that he planned never to return to the United States.

“I’m constantly amused and sometimes emotional,” he reportedly said. “Graffiti alone could fill a thousand-page thriller.”

He also told The Independent that prisoners and guards recognized him and some asked for his autograph.

McAfee said his primary point of contact outside of prison was his wife, Janice McAfee. The last post on his Twitter account was a retweet of a message from him for Father’s Day.

“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. .

California-based chipmaker Intel, which bought the company from McAfee in 2011 for $7.68 billion, for a time sought to decouple the brand from its controversial founder by integrating it into its larger cybersecurity division. But the rebranding was short-lived, and in 2016 Intel spun off the cybersecurity unit into a new company called McAfee.

Jaime Le, McAfee company spokesperson, said in a statement, “Although John McAfee founded the company, he has not been associated with our company in any capacity for more than 25 years. That said, our hearts go out to his family and loved ones. »

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Madrid said he was aware of reports of McAfee’s death but would not comment for confidentiality reasons.

___

Brito reported from Barcelona and Hatton reported from Lisbon, Portugal. Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee, Barbara Ortutay in Oakland, California, and David Hamilton in San Francisco contributed.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.