John McAfee, founder of McAfee antivirus company, found dead in Barcelona prison

Evidence points to suicide as the 75-year-old was found hanging in his cell in Brians 2 penitentiary

Investigacion muerte McAfee
John McAfee in a file photo.Ng Han Guan (AP)
Rebeca Carranco

The founder of the McAfee computer security software company, John McAfee, was found dead today in his cell in the Barcelona prison Brians 2, located in Sant Esteve de Sesrovires, according to police sources. The Catalan regional police are investigating the incident, and the evidence points to a suicide, according to the Justice Department. McAfee was awaiting extradition to the United States after being arrested by the Spanish National Police at Barcelona’s El Prat airport to face charges for tax evasion.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 13, 2012 John McAfee talks to the media at the Beacon Hotel where he is staying after arriving last night from Guatemala. Antivirus software pioneer John McAfee was found dead in his jail cell in Spain on June 23, 2021, officials 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. (Photo by JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
The final hours of John McAfee before his death in a Barcelona prison

McAfee, 75, was being held in Module 1 of the Brians 2 penitentiary. The prison guards, who found him hanging in his cell, as well as the medical services in the prison, gave him medical attention, according to the Justice Department, but were unable to save his life.

The controversial founder of the antivirus company was arrested on October 3, 2020 in the El Prat airport when he was about to take a flight to Turkey. The arrest was made after a request from the US justice system, which had accused McAfee of evading millions of dollars in taxes from earnings supposedly obtained from activities such as trading in cryptocurrencies. Spanish High Court Judge José de la Mata ordered him to be held in custody, and he was due to be extradited to the United States.

The US public prosecutor claims that McAfee evaded millions of dollars with the promotion of cryptocurrencies and the sale of rights for the publication of his biography

The court ruled out that McAfee was being prosecuted for “political, ideological or similar issues,” because “further than the verbal allegations” of the antivirus company founder, he had not provided any evidence to back this claim.

In recent years, McAfee had regularly claimed that there was a conspiracy against him. McAfee was detained in Spain after a notification was sent out from Interpol, who had included him on their list of most-wanted people after a request from the United States. The businessman regularly spent time in Tarragona, in Catalonia. After an investigation by the National Police, investigators discovered that he had traveled to Germany, from where he had returned on a private jet that landed in the airport in Reus, in Tarragona. A photo that he himself published on social media helped to locate him in the area. From that point onward, officers focused their efforts on Spanish airports, before arresting him at El Prat at 9.30am when he was due to fly to Istanbul. The next day, October 4, he was taken into custody in the Brians prison, where he was found dead.

The investigation by the US public prosecutor claims that McAfee evaded millions of dollars with the promotion of cryptocurrencies and the sale of rights for the publication of his biography between 2014 and 2018. What’s more, he was also accused of buying other assets in the name of third parties, among them a yacht. According to the US stock market watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the businessman used Twitter to promote the purchase of cryptocurrencies among his followers without making it clear that he was making money from this. With these operations, he is alleged to have pocketed $23 million (€19.5 million).

The life of the entrepreneur had always been mired in controversy. He explained in interviews with US media outlets that after studying math at college and dedicating his career to technology, he got involved in drugs. He worked in New York, London, Los Angeles and Cincinnati. He spent a year in Mexico driving around the country in a truck, selling jewels and drugs until he ended up in Silicon Valley. In 2010, he sold his company to Intel for nearly €6 billion.

McAfee regularly stated that he did not feel safe and that there was a US government plot against him

Among the strange episodes in his career was the death in 2012 of his neighbor in Belize, where McAfee was living surrounded by dogs, security guards and young women. The neighbor died from a shot to the head, and when the police wanted to interview McAfee if he knew anything about what had happened, he fled. He claimed that the authorities would accuse him of the crime or would even kill him if they managed to trap him.

Since 2011, he regularly repeated that he did not feel safe and there was a US government plot against him. He had been arrested on a number of occasions. In 2019, he was detained in the Dominican Republic when his boat moored in the country and was found to be carrying arms, ammunition and cash. His attorney said at the time that McAfee had been freed after it had been established that there were no active cases against him or extradition requests, and that the guns were seized before he had the opportunity to declare them.

McAfee was a friend of Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire businessman who is accused of sex trafficking and who was found dead in a maximum security prison in the United States. Epstein’s autopsy confirmed that his death was a suicide, but conspiracy theories persist that suggest otherwise. On October 15, 2020, once he was already in jail, McAfee wrote the following message on Twitter about his imprisonment: “I am content in here. I have friends. The food is good. All is well. Know that if I hang myself, a la Epstein, it will be no fault of mine.”

Specialists point out that suicide does not normally have a sole trigger, but is the result of psychological, biological and social factors that can be treated. People in Spain with suicidal behaviors can call the Teléfono de la Esperanza (717 003 717) or the Teléfono Contra el Suicidio (911 385 385), both of which work to prevent this problem.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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