Antivirus creator John McAfee found dead in prison after Spanish court allows extradition

John McAfee appears via videoconference during his extradition hearing in Madrid, Spain, on June 15, 2021.
John McAfee appears via videoconference during his extradition hearing in Madrid, Spain, on June 15, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BARCELONA (AFP) – Antivirus software pioneer John McAfee was found dead in his jail cell in Spain on Wednesday (June 23), officials said, shortly after a court approved his extradition to the United States where he was wanted for tax evasion.

The 75-year-old was found dead in his cell in the Brians 2 penitentiary near Barcelona “apparently from suicide”, a spokesman for the prison system in the northeastern Catalonia region said, confirming media reports.

A spokesman for the Catalan branch of the legal body which oversees Spain’s courts, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), also confirmed that McAfee had been found dead in his cell at around 7pm (1am on Thursday, Singapore time) in an apparent suicide.

A Reuters report citing McAfee's lawyer said he died by hanging.

McAfee has been in jail in Spain since he was arrested at Barcelona airport in October 2020, just as he was about to board a flight to Istanbul.

He is alleged to have deliberately failed to file tax returns between 2014 and 2018, despite earning millions from consulting work, cryptocurrencies and selling the rights to his life story.

If convicted, he could have faced up to 30 years in prison.

In a statement, Catalonia’s regional justice department said only that an investigation had been opened after an unnamed 75-year-old inmate facing extradition to the US was found dead in his cell at the prison.

“Guards and medical staff intervened immediately to perform resuscitation measures but doctors eventually certified his death,” the statement added.

Spain’s National Court earlier on Wednesday said it had approved McAfee’s extradition to the US.

The decision could still have been appealed and the extradition would also have needed approval from the Spanish Cabinet.

Crypto guru

According to the US extradition request filed in November and quoted in the ruling, McAfee earned more than €10 million in 2014 to 2018, but never filed a tax return.

“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,” it said.

The Spanish court decision only referred to offences that took place between 2016 and 2018.

Since making a fortune in the 1980s with the antivirus software that still bears his name, McAfee had become a self-styled cryptocurrency guru, claiming to make US$2,000 a day.

He had more than one million followers on Twitter, where he described himself as a “lover of women, adventure and mystery”.

In a tweet on June 16, he said the US authorities believed he had “hidden crypto”.

“I wish I did,” he added. “My remaining assets are all seized. My friends evaporated through fear of association. I have nothing. Yet, I regret nothing.”

McAfee’s wife Janice has long complained that he was “not doing well” in jail and had faced delays in getting “proper medical care” in prison in Spain.

“The US authorities are determined to have John die in prison,” she had tweeted on Sunday.

“The media have continued to vilify him, per their narrative, and there is no hope for him ever having a fair trial in America,” she added.

Unsolved murder

McAfee, a British-American, made headlines after he moved to Belize and his neighbour in the Central American country was mysteriously murdered in 2012, a crime that remains unsolved.

After the police found him living with a 17-year-old girl and discovered a large arsenal of weapons in his home, McAfee disappeared for a month.

The dead neighbour’s family later filed a wrongful death suit against McAfee and in 2019 a court in Florida found against him, ordering him to pay the family more than US$25 million.

In 2015, McAfee was arrested in the US for driving under the influence. He again disappeared from view until January 2019, when he fled the country.