Software mogul John McAfee commits suicide in Spanish prison

John McAfee was accused of failing to pay tax on 10 million euros of earnings. Source:: AFP

BARCELONA: British-born US technology entrepreneur John McAfee died on Wednesday by suicide in a Barcelona prison after the Spanish high court authorised his extradition to the United States on tax evasion charges.

McAfee’s lawyer, Javier Villalba, said the anti-virus software pioneer died by hanging as his nine months in prison brought him to despair.

During a court hearing last month, McAfee, 75, said that given his age, he would spend the rest of his life in jail if convicted in the United States. “I am hoping that the Spanish court will see the injustice of this,” he said, adding “the United States wants to use me as an example.”

McAfee had lived for years on the run from US authorities, some of that time aboard a megayacht. He was indicted in Tennessee on tax evasion charges and was charged in a cryptocurrency fraud case in New York. The tech founder was detained on October 3 at the Barcelona airport as he was about to board a flight to Istanbul with a British passport.

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.

Spain’s high court said on Wednesday it agreed to extradite McAfee to the United States. The regional justice department confirmed that a US man awaiting extradition was found dead in his cell and prison authorities were investigating the cause of death.

READ MORE: Software icon McAfee charged in cryptocurrency scam

McAfee still had opportunities to appeal his conviction but could not stand more time in jail, Villalba said. “This is the result of a cruel system that had no reason to keep this man in jail for so long,” he said. US prosecutors will likely ask the judge overseeing the tax evasion case to dismiss charges because of McAfee’s death.

McAfee said in 2019 that he had not paid US income taxes for eight years for ideological reasons. That year, he left the United States to avoid trial, largely living on a megayacht with his wife, four large dogs, two security guards and seven staff. He offered to help Cuba avoid a US trade embargo using cryptocurrency and sought to run for US president for the Libertarian Party.

McAfee lived in Belize for several years. He fled after police sought him for questioning in the 2012 murder of a neighbour. They ultimately said he was not a suspect.

Janice McAfee said in a post on Twitter on Sunday, “Now the U.S. authorities are determined to have John die in prison to make an example of him for speaking out against the corruption within their government agencies… There is no hope of him ever having a fair trial in America.”

McAfee was a prolific user of Twitter, where he had 1 million followers, and other social media. A number of cryptocurrency backers around the world posted tweets of condolence. In his last public tweet on June 18, McAfee wrote: “All power corrupts. Take care which powers you allow a democracy to wield.”

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