MADRID, Spain: John McAfee, the creator of McAfee antivirus software, 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, authorities said.
The eccentric cryptocurrency promoter and tax opponent whose history of legal troubles spanned from Tennessee to Central America to the Caribbean was discovered at the Brians 2 penitentiary in north-eastern Spain. Jail’s medical team confirmed his death.
“A judicial delegation has arrived to investigate the causes of death,” it said, adding that “everything points to death by suicide.”
Spain’s National Court on Monday ruled in favour 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 he would spend the rest of his life in prison if returned to the US.
McAfee was arrested last October at Barcelona’s international airport and had been in jail since then awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings. The arrest followed charges the same month in Tennessee for evading taxes after failing to report income from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consulting work, made speaking engagements and sold the rights to his life story for a documentary.
Nishay Sanan, the Chicago-based attorney defending him on those cases, said by 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.
The lawyer said Spanish authorities have not given his legal team a cause of death, and he wants to know if there were video cameras in McAfee’s cell or in the prison.
Tennessee prosecutors had argued that McAfee owed the US government $4,214,105 in taxes before fines or interests for undeclared income in the five fiscal years from 2014 to 2018. But in this week’s ruling, the National Court judge agreed to extradite him only to face charges from 2016 to 2018.
Getting subtle messages from U.S. officials saying, in effect: "We're coming for you McAfee! We're going to kill yourself". I got a tattoo today just in case. If I suicide myself, I didn't. I was whackd. Check my right arm.$WHACKD available only on https://t.co/HdSEYi9krq🙂 pic.twitter.com/rJ0Vi2Hpjj
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) November 30, 2019
Born in England’s Gloucestershire in 1945 as John David McAfee, he started 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 twice made long-shot runs for the US presidency and was a participant in Libertarian Party presidential debates in 2016. He dabbled in yoga, ultralight aircraft and producing herbal medications.
A Florida court ordered McAfee in 2019 to pay $25 million to Faull’s estate in a wrongful death claim.
In July of that year, he was released from detention in the Dominican Republic after he and five others were suspected of travelling on a yacht carrying high-calibre weapons, ammunition and military-style gear.
McAfee told Wired Magazine in 2012 that his father, a heavy drinker and “very unhappy man,” shot himself 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 some 160 kilometres east of Memphis. In a 2015 interview with WBBJ-TV, McAfee said he only felt comfortable when armed. The TV station reported that he chose to be interviewed with a loaded gun in each hand.
The vaccine debate:
Here is the issue:
Why do those who want vaccinations
Give a shit
About what those who don't want them
Choose to do
Or not do?
If you're vaccinated you are safe from all …
According to your own beliefs …
So why concern yourself with what others do?
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) March 15, 2020
“Very little gives me a feeling of being safe and more secure other than being armed in my bedroom with the door locked,” McAfee told the station.
In one of his last known media interviews, with British newspaper The Independent last November, McAfee said his prison experience in Spain was a “fascinating adventure” and he planned never to return to the US.
California chipmaker Intel, which bought McAfee’s company in 2011 for $7.68 billion, for a time sought to dissociate the brand from its controversial founder by folding it into its larger cybersecurity division. But the rebranding was short-lived, and Intel in 2016 spun out the cybersecurity unit into a new company called McAfee.
A spokesperson with the US Embassy in Madrid said it was aware of the reports about McAfee’s death but would not comment for privacy reasons.