Anti-virus software entrepreneur John McAfee has been found dead in a Barcelona prison cell, just hours after a Spanish court agreed to extradite him to the US to face tax evasion charges.
The Catalan Justice Department said prison medics tried to resuscitate him, but were not successful.
It said in a statement that “everything indicates” Mr McAfee took his own life.
A controversial figure, Mr McAfee’s company released the first commercial anti-virus software.
It helped to spark a multi-billion dollar industry in the computer world.
In October 2020, he was arrested in Spain, and accused of failing to file tax returns for four years, despite earning millions from consulting work, speaking engagements, crypto-currencies and selling the rights to his life story.
The US Justice Department alleged that Mr McAfee evaded tax liability by having his income paid into bank accounts and cryptocurrency exchange accounts in the names of nominees.
He was also accused of concealing assets, including a yacht and real estate property, in the names of others.
His death was reported just hours after Spain’s National Court approved his extradition to the US, where he is wanted on tax-related criminal charges that carried a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
The decision could have been appealed and the final extradition would have needed to be approved by the Spanish Cabinet.
Following his reported death, an old tweet of McAfee’s resurfaced alleging “If I suicide myself, I didn’t. I was whackd. Check my right arm.”
The tweet included a photograph of himself with a tattoo that said $WHACKD and the caption alleging: “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.”
McAfee was arrested on October 3 of last year at El Prat airport in Spain, as he was about to flee the country to Turkey.
That same month, McAfee was charged in Tennessee with evading taxes after failing to report income made from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consulting work, made speaking engagements and sold the rights to his life story for a documentary.
McAfee sold his antivirus company to Intel for $7.7billion in 2011.
The pioneer who developed early internet security software has been sought by authorities in the US and Belize in the past.
The Tennessee indictment said McAfee failed to file tax returns from 2014 to 2018, despite receiving “considerable income” from several sources.
According to a June 15 indictment, McAfee allegedly earned millions from speaking engagements, consulting, promoting cryptocurrencies and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary.
The indictment did not allege that the tech boss received any income in relation with McAfee Associates.
In a hearing held via videolink earlier this month, 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.
Back in March, McAfee was also charged over a $13million cryptocurrency “scam” after allegedly luring victims on Twitter.
The McAfee Associates founder was hit with a slew of charges, including money laundering and fraud, in Manhattan federal court.
The charges stemmed from two schemes concerning the fraudulent promotion to investors of cryptocurrencies, the US Department of Justice said.
McAfee and his bodyguard, Jimmy Gale Watson Jr, were charged for a scheme to exploit McAfee’s Twitter following by publicly touting cryptocurrency offerings and digital tokens that they later sold once prices rose on the promotions, according to the DOJ.
Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss said that McAfee, Watson, 40, and other members of the “cryptocurrency team” allegedly gained more than $13million from investors “they victimized with their fraudulent schemes.”
His full slew of charges were conspiracy to commit commodities and securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities and touting fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and substantive wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy offenses stemming from two schemes relating to the fraudulent promotion to investors of cryptocurrencies qualifying under federal law as commodities or securities. If convicted, McAfee would have faced up to 60 years in prison.
Back in July 2019, McAfee was arrested, and later released, by Dominican Republican Armed Forces in Puerto Plata after being suspected of having high-caliber weapons, ammunition and military-style gear while on his boat.
Who was John McAfee?
John McAfee was born in 1945 on a US Army base in Britain, before being raised in Virginia.
After working as a programmer and software designer for several companies, including NASA, he began to develop software to combat viruses.
In 1987 he founded McAfee Associates, a computer antivirus company.
Eventually Intel bought McAfee and changed the name of the branding – something McAfee expressed pleasure over.
In August 2009, The New York Times reported that his personal fortune had fallen to $4million from $100million.
He moved to Belize and wanted to find medicinal uses for plants on his land.
At the DEF CON conference in Los Angeles in August 2014 he warned Americans not to use smartphones – suggesting apps are used to spy on clueless customers who do not read privacy agreements.
He announced he would seek the office of President of the United States in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a candidate of the Libertarian Party. He lost the Libertarian Party’s nomination to Gary Johnson.
In May 2016 he was appointed chief executive chairman and CEO of MGT Capital Investments, later announcing that it would be renamed John McAfee Global Technologies.
He then claimed he and his team had exploited a flaw in the Android operating system that allowed him to read encrypted messages from Whatsapp.