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Who is John McAfee, the antivirus pioneer who died by suicide in Spanish prison?

John McAfee 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.

June 24, 2021 / 08:47 AM IST
John 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.

John 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.


John McAfee, the antivirus software pioneer, died by suicide in his jail cell in Spain on June 23. The news of his death came shortly after a court approved his extradition to the United States where he was wanted for tax evasion.

McAfee's body 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.

Spain’s National Court had just hours ago ruled in favour of extraditing the 75-year-old. The court’s ruling was open for appeal, with any final extradition order also needing to get approval from the Spanish Cabinet.

Soon after his death, McAfee's tweet from December 2019 went viral on social media. Sharing a picture of his tattoo on his right arm, McAfee had said, "If I suicide myself, I didn't. I was whackd. Check my right arm."

"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," he tweeted.

Who is John McAfee?

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John McAfee was, among other things, a cryptocurrency promoter, tax opponent, US presidential candidate and fugitive.

McAfee worked for NASA, Xerox and Lockheed Martin before launching the world's first commercial anti-virus in 1987. He sold his software company to Intel in 2011 and no longer had any involvement in the business. The program still carries his name and has 500 million users worldwide.

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 the production of herbal medications.

Since making a fortune in the 1980s with the antivirus software, McAfee had become a self-styled cryptocurrency guru, claiming to make $2,000 a day. His life after that became a headline-grabbing mix of controversies involving drugs, weapons and even murder.

McAfee 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," he said on Twitter.

Charges against John McAfee

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.

According to the US extradition request filed in November and quoted in the ruling, McAfee earned more than 10 million euros ($12 million) in 2014-18, 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.

In a hearing held via videolink earlier, McAfee argued that the charges against him were politically motivated and said he would spend the rest of his life in prison if he was returned to the US.

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 island in Belize where both men lived. But was never charged with a crime.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, the following organizations can help. In India, call 24x7 toll-free mental health rehabilitation helpline 'Kiran' at 1800-599-0019.

(With inputs from agencies)
Moneycontrol News
first published: Jun 24, 2021 08:37 am

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