Antivirus software pioneer John McAfee was found dead in his jail cell in Spain overnight, a prison official said, 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 anti-viral software of the same name became one of the biggest players in the market.
However, 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.
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 crypto-currency guru, claiming to make $US2000 a day.
He has more than one million followers on Twitter.
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 his posts, he hinted at his mental health issues.
“I have a million followers but I’d be surprised if even 1% bother to read my tweets,” he wrote earlier this month.
“Ramblings of an old man lost in a near infinite Twitter verse – like tears in rain. As you may guess I’m having a down day.”
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.”
– with AFP