John McAfee, the antivirus software pioneer who founded cybersecurity company McAfee, was found dead in a prison cell in Spain on Wednesday, his lawyer said.
A Spanish court earlier today ordered the extradition of Mr. McAfee, 75, in federal criminal proceedings in Tennessee. Mr. McAfee had been detained in the country since October in connection with criminal charges filed in Tennessee by the Department of Justice’s tax division.
The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office has also requested Mr. McAfee’s extradition in a separate criminal case.
“John was and will always be remembered as a fighter,” said Nishay K. Sanan, an attorney representing Mr. McAfee in US criminal proceedings. “He tried to love this country but the US government made it impossible for him to exist.”
Mr Sanan said Wednesday’s court ruling will be appealed in the coming days.
Spanish authorities will investigate the cause and circumstances of Mr McAfee’s death, according to a government official. In December, a court rejected a request for Mr McAfee’s release, saying he risked fleeing and staying in the prison near Barcelona posed no risk to his health.
Mr. McAfee founded the company that still bears his name in 1987, but sold his stake in the 1990s for over $ 100 million.
“Although John McAfee founded the company, he has not been associated with our company for over 25 years,” a McAfee Corp spokesperson said Wednesday. by email. “Having said that, our hearts go out to his family and loved ones. “
In the mid-2000s, Mr. McAfee abandoned the corporate world and spent millions of dollars to build a series of airstrips in the Southwestern United States, where he devoted himself to his passion for “aerotrekking” or low-altitude desert exploration.
In recent years, he had focused on cryptocurrencies, which he promoted with an outlaw image and a reputation for brash statements. In 2017, Mr. McAfee predicted in a tweet that bitcoin would be valued at $ 500,000 within three years, a prediction that did not come true.
Over the years, he has had several run-ins with the law. While living in Belize, police sought to question him after his neighbor was found by gunshot in 2012. He fled the country to Guatemala, but was later deported to the United States after being found. entered the country illegally. Mr. McAfee maintained his innocence on this matter.
Mr. McAfee has made millions promoting cryptocurrencies, charging speaking fees and providing advisory services, but has not paid taxes on those earnings, according to federal prosecutors. Authorities accused him of failing to file tax returns between 2014 and 2018 and avoiding taxes by designating others as owners of his assets in cryptocurrency accounts, real estate and even a yacht.
In March, federal prosecutors in New York City indicted McAfee with fraud, claiming he deceptively promoted cryptocurrencies through his Twitter account. Mr McAfee and his associates made more than $ 2 million through a ‘pump and dump’ program, where they promoted a dozen little-known cryptocurrencies on Twitter, then ditched the assets once their value had risen. increased, prosecutors said.
In a statement posted to a website last year, Mr. McAfee said he had not filed a tax return since 2010 and had already contacted the IRS about his plans. In a tweet from March, Mr. McAfee said he was used as a scapegoat in a broader US crackdown on cryptocurrencies.
In one of his latest public messages on Twitter, sent to his million followers last week, Mr McAfee claimed his cryptocurrency assets had “dissolved” and the government had seized his remaining assets.
“My friends evaporated for fear of the association,” the tweet said. “I have nothing. Yet I do not regret anything.
Mr Sanan said Wednesday’s court decision will be appealed in the coming days and the New York extradition is still pending in a lower court in Spain.
Mr. McAfee founded the security company that still bears his name in 1987, but he sold his stake in the company in the 1990s and had not been involved in the company’s operations for decades.
—Giovanni Legorano contributed to this article.
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