The creator of McAfee antivirus software, John McAfee, was found dead in his jail cell near Barcelona in an apparent suicide Wednesday, hours after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the United States to face tax charges punishable by decades in prison, according to authorities.
The eccentric cryptocurrency promoter and tax opponent was discovered at the Brians 2 penitentiary in northeastern Spain, with a history of legal troubles spanning from Tennessee to Central America to the Caribbean. Security personnel attempted to resuscitate him, but the jail’s medical team eventually certified his death, according to a statement from the regional Catalan government.
“A judicial delegation has arrived to investigate the causes of death,” the statement said, adding that “everything points to suicide.”
The statement did not name McAfee, but stated that the deceased was a 75-year-old US citizen who was awaiting extradition to his home country. A Catalan government official familiar with the case who was not authorized to be named in media reports confirmed McAfee’s identity to The Associated Press.
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On Monday, Spain’s National Court ruled in favor of extraditing McAfee, 75, who had argued in a hearing earlier this month that the charges against him by prosecutors in Tennessee were politically motivated and that if he was returned to the US, he would spend the rest of his life in prison.
The court’s ruling was made public on Wednesday and was open for appeal, with any final extradition order also needing to get approval from the Spanish Cabinet.
McAfee was arrested at Barcelona’s international airport last October and has been held in jail since then awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings. The arrest followed charges in Tennessee the same month for tax evasion after failing to report income from promoting cryptocurrencies while doing consulting work, speaking engagements, and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary. The criminal charges carried a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
McAfee “will always be remembered as a fighter,” said Nishay Sanan, the Chicago-based attorney defending him in those cases, over the phone. “He tried to love this country, but the US government made it impossible for him to exist,” Sanan said. “They attempted, but failed, to erase him.”
The lawyer claims that Spanish authorities have not provided his legal team with a cause of death, and he wants to know if video cameras were installed in McAfee’s cell or in the prison. The US Attorney’s Office in Memphis did not respond to a request for comment.
According to a Spanish court document obtained by AP, Tennessee prosecutors argued that McAfee owed the US government $4,214,105 in taxes before fines or interest for undeclared income in the five fiscal years from 2014 to 2018. However, in a recent ruling, a National Court judge agreed to extradite him only to face charges from 2016 to 2018.
Born John David McAfee in Gloucestershire, England in 1945, he founded McAfee Associates in 1987 and led an eccentric life after selling his stake in the antivirus software company named after him in the early 1990s. McAfee ran for president of the United States twice and participated in Libertarian Party presidential debates in 2016. He dabbled in yoga, ultralight aircraft and producing herbal medications.
In 2012, he was wanted for questioning in connection with the death of Gregory Viant Faull, who was shot to death on the Belize island where the men lived in early November 2012.
At the time, McAfee told AP that he was being persecuted by the Belizean government. Belizean authorities denied this, claiming that they were simply investigating a crime about which McAfee may have knowledge. “I don’t want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid, even bonkers,” then-Prime Minister Dean Barrow said of McAfee’s mental state.
In 2019, a Florida court ordered McAfee to pay Faull’s estate $25 million in a wrongful death claim. He was released from detention in the Dominican Republic in July of that year after he and five others were suspected of traveling on a yacht carrying high-caliber weapons, ammunition, and military-style gear.
McAfee revealed to Wired Magazine in 2012 that his father, a heavy drinker and “very unhappy man,” committed suicide when McAfee was 15 years old. “I wake up with him every day,” he told Wired.
He lived in Lexington, Tennessee, a rural town of about 7,800 people located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of Memphis. McAfee stated in a 2015 interview with WBBJ-TV that he only felt safe when armed. The TV station reported that he chose to be interviewed with a loaded gun in each hand.
“Very little, other than being armed in my bedroom with the door locked, gives me a feeling of being safe and more secure,” McAfee told the station. McAfee said in one of his last known media interviews, with the British newspaper The Independent last November, that his prison experience in Spain was a “fascinating adventure” and that he would never return to the United States.
He was quoted as saying, “I am constantly amused and sometimes moved.” “The graffiti could fill a thousand-page thriller on its own.” He also told The Independent that he had been recognized by prisoners and guards, and that some had asked for his autograph. Janice McAfee, McAfee’s wife, was his main point of contact outside the prison, according to McAfee. His most recent tweet was a retweet of a Father’s Day message.
“These eight months John has spent in prison in Spain have been especially difficult on his overall health, both mentally and physically, as well as financially,” the statement said, “but he is undeterred from continuing to speak truth to power.”
Intel, which paid $7.68 billion for McAfee’s company in 2011, attempted to distance the brand from its controversial founder for a time by incorporating it into its larger cybersecurity division. However, the rebranding was short-lived, as Intel spun off the cybersecurity unit into a new company called McAfee in 2016.
Jaime Le, a McAfee spokesperson, stated in a statement: “Although John McAfee founded the company, he has not been involved with it in any way for over 25 years. Having said that, our thoughts are with his family and those close to him.” The US Embassy in Madrid said it was aware of the reports about McAfee’s death but would not comment for privacy reasons.
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