John McAfee’s Death Was Likely Suicide, Spanish Authorities Say
Spanish authorities opened an investigation into the death of software pioneer
after he was found dead in his jail cell from an apparent suicide following a monthslong fight against tax-evasion charges in the U.S.
Mr. McAfee’s body was found Wednesday at a facility near Barcelona, a day after a Spanish court ordered his extradition in connection with a federal criminal proceeding in Tennessee. Mr. McAfee, the 75-year-old founder of antivirus software company
, had been detained in Spain since October, after first fleeing the U.S. in January 2019 for what he described at the time as a period of exile during which he would be free to exercise his libertarian beliefs.
“Everything indicates that it could be a death by suicide,” a spokeswoman for the Justice Department of the Catalan regional government told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
The spokeswoman said that a local judicial delegation is investigating the cause and circumstances of Mr. McAfee’s death and took his body away from the jail to carry out an autopsy.
The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office on Thursday said it was requesting from Spain a certificate of death or other proof of Mr. McAfee’s death, as well as information about the cause of his death, according to a New York federal court filing.
Mr. McAfee’s body was found in his cell at around 7 p.m. local time. Security personnel tried to resuscitate him, but the jail’s medical team later declared him dead, the spokeswoman said.
Mr. McAfee shared the cell with another man, but he was alone when he was found, she said. The spokeswoman said she couldn’t comment further.
His Spanish lawyer,
said the director of the prison where Mr. McAfee was detained told him on Wednesday that his client was found hanging. He said that he wasn’t given more information about the circumstances and that he was waiting for the results of the investigation being carried out by Spanish authorities.
The spokeswoman of the Justice Department of the Catalan government declined to comment on Mr. Villalba’s remarks. The director of the prison couldn’t be reached to comment.
A spokeswoman for the High Court of Justice of Catalonia in Barcelona, which is handling the investigation on Mr. McAfee’s death, said she couldn’t confirm the cause of his death until the results of his autopsy were published. That could take several days, she said.
Mr. McAfee’s death caught his Spanish lawyer by surprise. He said Mr. McAfee has always been “combative.”
“He has never given any signal he could have taken his own life,” Mr. Villalba told the Journal. “It’s an unpleasant surprise, something we couldn’t expect at all. We don’t understand it.”
Mr. McAfee had previously said on
in 2019 that if authorities had ever determined he had committed suicide it meant that he had been killed, and news of his death prompted an upsurge in conspiracy theories online. But in other tweets from behind bars, Mr. McAfee had mourned the amount of time he would likely remain locked up during legal proceedings and predicted he might spend the rest of his life in prison.
Nishay K. Sanan, an attorney representing Mr. McAfee in U.S. criminal proceedings, said Mr. McAfee “was and will always be remembered as a fighter.”
“He tried to love this country but the U.S. government made his existence impossible,” Mr. Sanan said.
Mr. McAfee took a long and circuitous route to Spain. He lived in Belize for years after selling the company that still bears his name in the 1990s for more than $100 million. He left in 2012 when authorities there wanted to question him in connection with the suspected homicide of his neighbor, Gregory Faull, who was found with a gunshot wound to the head. Mr. McAfee, who said he was afraid of being set up, asserted his innocence and fled to Guatemala.
He was later arrested for illegally entering Guatemala and deported to the U.S., where he pursued his interest in libertarian politics, briefly seeking the nomination of the Libertarian Party as its candidate for the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, frequently describing income tax as “extortion.”
In 2019, Mr. McAfee announced he would continue his unsuccessful campaign in exile, living on a boat in international waters after saying he ran afoul of U.S. tax authorities.
“I’ve not paid taxes for eight years. I make no secret of it. I have not filed returns. Every year I tell the IRS, ‘I am not filing a return, I have no intention of doing so, come and find me,’” he said in a video he posted to Twitter.
Mr. McAfee didn’t stay at sea for long. He said he and his wife, Janice McAfee, first sailed to the Bahamas in the hope they could stay there, he recounted in a blog post on his website. They then traveled to Cuba, he said, staying for two months before switching to the Dominican Republic, where he was arrested for allegedly possessing illegal weapons. They then traveled to the U.K., for which he also holds a passport on account of his British mother.
“From England we went underground. That’s all I will say on that matter,” he wrote.
In recent years, Mr. McAfee became closely associated with cryptocurrencies, including projects that, according to law-enforcement authorities, raised money from the public and used some of the proceeds to pay him for his promotion work. At the time of his death, he was facing criminal charges on tax evasion, securities fraud and money laundering, among others.
After his arrest in Spain in October, Mr. McAfee filed a request to Spanish judicial authorities to be freed while waiting for a decision on his extradition to the U.S. His request was rejected on the grounds that he was a flight risk and that remaining in the jail near Barcelona didn’t pose a risk to his health.
During a court hearing about his extradition, Mr. McAfee said that the charges against him had a political motive and that if he was sent to the U.S. he would spend the rest of his life in prison. The Spanish court dismissed his claims due to a lack of evidence.
—Dave Michaels contributed to this article.
Write to Giovanni Legorano at [email protected]
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