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Antivirus software creator John McAfee found dead in Spanish jail


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 northeastern Spain.

Security personnel tried to revive him, but the jail’s medical team finally certified his death, a statement from the regional Catalan government said.

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

The statement didn’t identify McAfee by name, but said he was a 75-year-old U.S. citizen awaiting extradition to the country.

A Catalan government source familiar with the case who was not authorized to be named in media reports confirmed to The Associated Press that it was McAfee.

Claimed charges were politically motivated

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 he was returned to the U.S.

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.

The entrepreneur was arrested last October at Barcelona’s international airport. A judge ordered at that time that McAfee should be held in jail while awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings.

McAfee had been charged the same month in Tennessee with 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. The criminal charges carried a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

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

McAfee was found dead Wednesday in his cell inside the Brians 2 penitentiary near Barcelona. (Joan Mateu/The Associated Press)

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

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.

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

Political bids, detainment in Dominican Republic

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 U.S. presidency and was a participant in Libertarian Party presidential debates in 2016.

He dabbled in yoga, ultra-light 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 in early November 2012 on the Belize island where the men lived.

McAfee told The Associated Press at the time that he was being persecuted by the Belizean government. Belizean police denied that, saying they were simply investigating a crime about which McAfee may have had information.

A Florida court ordered McAfee in 2019 to pay $25 million US 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, officials on the Caribbean island said at the time.

He lived for a time in Lexington, Tenn., 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.

“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.

‘Constantly amused and sometimes moved’

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 U.S.

“I am constantly amused and sometimes moved,” he was quoted as saying. “The graffiti alone could fill a thousand-page thriller.”

McAfee, seen in a photo taken in Miami Beach, Fla., in December 2012, had argued the charges he was facing in the United States were politically motivated. (Joe Skipper/Reuters)

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

McAfee said his main point of contact outside the prison was his wife, Janice McAfee. The last post from his Twitter account was a retweet of a Father’s Day message from her.

“These eight months John has spent in prison in Spain have been especially hard on his overall health both mentally and physically, as well as financially, but he is undeterred from continuing to speak truth to power,” it said.

The U.S. Embassy in Madrid didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.



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