McAfee founder dies of 'apparent suicide' in Spanish prison
John McAfee, the founder of the antivirus software McAfee, was found dead in his jail cell in Spain on Wednesday. Authorities said the 75-year-old died "apparently from suicide" at the Brians 2 penitentiary near Barcelona. Notably, McAfee's death came shortly after a court approved his extradition to the United States. He was wanted for tax evasion. Here are more details.
Andrew Gordan, one of McAfee's lawyers, said in a statement, "When I heard of John's impending extradition, my team was fully prepared to fight for his innocence before the United States courts." "We knew he would appreciate the opportunity to share his story and put the false charges against him to rest. Only hours later, we were shocked to learn of his untimely death."
John McAfee was arrested at the Barcelona airport last October as he was about to board a flight to Istanbul. He is accused of deliberately failing to file his tax returns between 2014-2018. He had earned millions during the period from consulting work, cryptocurrencies, and selling the rights to his life story. He would have faced up to 30 years in prison, if convicted.
A US extradition request filed in November stated that McAfee earned more than €10 million ($12 million; Rs. 88.5 crore) in 2014-2018. Earlier on Wednesday, Spain's National Court had approved McAfee's extradition to the United States. The defendant had the right to appeal against the court's decision. Further, any extradition would have to be approved by the Spanish cabinet.
The extradition request stated, "To conceal his income and assets from the Internal Revenue Service...the defendant ordered part of his income to be paid to straw men and placed property in their names." The Spanish court referred to offenses dating 2016-2018.
A pioneer in the cybersecurity industry, McAfee founded McAfee Corp in 1987 in California. Early on, half of all Fortune 100 companies were using his software. McAfee resigned in 1994, telling South China Morning Post decades later that running a huge corporation with thousands of employees was no longer fun. McAfee products were rebranded to Intel Security after Intel Corp's takeover in 2010.
In 2008, McAfee moved to Belize as his $100 million fortune shrunk to $4 million. In 2012, he was probed for the killing of his 52-year-old neighbor Gregory Faull. A court ordered him to pay $25 million to Faull's estate in a wrongful death suit. McAfee sought asylum in Guatemala only to be expelled later. In December 2012, he moved to Miami.
After an unsuccessful 2016 run for US Presidency, McAfee got into cryptocurrency in 2017. He resigned as MGT Capital Investments' CEO and became the CEO of the cryptocurrency firm Luxcore. He would also charge $105,000 to promote initial coin offerings on Twitter. Later, McAfee said he was forced to "go dark" online after unspecified "threats" from the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
McAfee claimed to have been making up to $2,000 a day and used Twitter to promote cryptocurrencies. On June 16, McAfee tweeted saying that the US authorities believed he had "hidden crypto" adding that he wished that he did. "My remaining assets are all seized. My friends evaporated through fear of association. I have nothing. Yet, I regret nothing."
McAfee—who was allowed to use Twitter from prison—had tweeted in April: "This has been the most trying period in my life." Nishay Sanan, McAfee's attorney, claimed that the US government targeted McAfee and "tried to erase him, but failed."
In November 2019, he had shared a photo of a tattoo on his right bicep that read '$WHACKD'. "Getting subtle messages from US 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."