In the days before he was found dead in a Spanish prison cell, antivirus software pioneer John McAfee posted a series of deep and tragic posts on social media.
Overnight, a prison official confirmed his death 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 spokeswoman for the prison system in the northeastern Catalonia region said, confirming media reports. She gave no further details.
McAfee is one of the most well-known names in the world of computers as his antiviral software of the same name became one of the biggest players in the market.
He sold the software in the early 1990s, netting him a reported $US100 million.
However, his legal troubles first started in 2012 when Belize police raided his mansion under suspicion he was running a meth lab, although no drugs were found.
Seven months later, he was named as a person of interest in the murder of his neighbour, American expat Gregory Faull, who was found dead from a gunshot to the head after reportedly poisoning McAfee’s dogs.
McAfee denied any involvement but went on the run, claiming Belize authorities — in the pocket of Mexican drug cartels — were trying to kill him. He was arrested several weeks later in Guatemala, where he unsuccessfully applied for asylum before ultimately being released and deported to the US.
He ran as a candidate for the Libertarian party in 2016 and last year announced he would run again in 2020, “this time to draw public attention to the blockchain and cryptocurrency revolution”.
He 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.
On October 6 he was accused of tax evasion and failure to disclose income charges at Barcelona airport. He had faced charges that he hid significant assets on his tax returns for a number of years, which included real estate and a yacht.
His defence had argued that the extradition request was politically motivated and therefore wasn’t appropriate.
In a tweet on June 16, he said the US authorities believed he had “hidden crypto. I wish I did” he said.
“My remaining assets are all seized. My friends evaporated through fear of association. I have nothing. Yet, I regret nothing.”
In a final post on Twitter on Saturday he wrote:
“In a democracy, power is given not taken. But it is still power. Love, compassion, caring have no use for it.
“But it is fuel for greed, hostility, jealousy … All power corrupts. Take care which powers you allow a democracy to wield.”
McAfee disagreed with the current monetary system, which has made him “public enemy No. 1,” according to court documents released on Wednesday.
The US calculated that McAfee owed more than $US4.2 million in taxes for the 2014 to 2018, the documents show.
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.
Spain’s National Court earlier on Wednesday said it had approved his extradition to the United States.
The decision could still have been appealed and the extradition would also have needed approval from the Spanish cabinet.
According to the US extradition request filed in November and quoted in the ruling, McAfee earned more than 10 million euros in the four years in question, 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 $US2000 a day.
He has more than one million followers on Twitter.