John McAfee's attorney fuels conspiracy theories by claiming his client was NOT suicidal after tech-outlaw tweeted he would not die 'a la Epstein' and that the US government 'wants to make an example of me'
- The 75-year-old was found dead at the jail outside Barcelona just hours after a court approved his extradition to the US where he was wanted for tax evasion
- Officials insisted no evidence of foul play, but McAfee's previous tweets that he would never take his own life 'a la Epstein' have fuelled conspiracy theories
- '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,' McAfee tweeted on Oct. 15
- McAfee was collared at Barcelona airport on October 3, about to board a flight to Istanbul with a British passport, at the request of the US Justice Department
- His lawyer said said McAfee's death had come as a surprise to his wife and other relatives, adding he would seek to get 'to the bottom' of his client's death
John McAfee claimed the US government 'wants to make an example out of me' in a final plea before he was found hanging in his Spanish jail cell on Wednesday in an apparent suicide that his lawyer says came as a complete surprise.
The 75-year-old died at the jail outside Barcelona just hours after a court approved his extradition to the US where he was wanted for tax evasion and fraud.
Spanish authorities insist that there was no evidence of foul play, but McAfee's previous tweets that he would never take his own life 'a la Epstein' have fuelled conspiracy theories.
'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,' McAfee tweeted on October 15.
McAfee was collared at Barcelona airport at the request of the US Justice Department on October 3, about to board a flight to Istanbul with a British passport.
During a court hearing last month, McAfee said that he would spend the rest of his life in jail if convicted in America. 'I am hoping that the Spanish court will see the injustice of this,' he said, adding 'the United States wants to use me as an example.'
His lawyer Javier Villalba said said McAfee's death had come as a surprise to his wife and other relatives, adding he would seek to get 'to the bottom' of his client's death.
'I had constant telephone contacts with him,' Villalba said. 'At no point had he shown any special worry or clue that could let us think this could have happened.'
'This has been like pouring cold water on the family and on his defense team,' the lawyer said. 'Nobody expected it, he had not said goodbye.'
The sense of foreboding in McAfee's tweets and in particular, his obsession with the paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein has cast doubts on his apparent suicide.
Epstein was found hanged in his prison cell in Manhattan in August 2019 but many believe he was assassinated to stop him from implicating wealthy elites in a child sex trafficking ring.
Although Villalba said that he had no evidence of any foul play, he blamed McAfee's death on 'the cruelty of the system' for keeping a 75-year-old behind bars for economic and not violent crimes after judges refused to release him on bail.
'We had managed to nullify seven of the 10 counts he was accused of and even so he was still that dangerous person who could be fleeing Spain if he was released?' the lawyer said. 'He was a world eminence, where could he hide?'
Spain's National Court on Monday ruled that McAfee should be extradited to the U.S. to face charges for evading more than $4 million in the fiscal years 2016 to 2018. The judge dropped seven of the 10 counts in the initial indictment.
Villalba said that McAfee had learned about the ruling shortly after on Monday and that his death on Wednesday didn't come in the heat of the moment. He also said that the legal team had been preparing with him an appeal to avoid being extradited.
A penitentiary source told AP that McAfee was sharing a cell in the Brians 2 jail, but that at the moment of his death he had been alone.
McAfee - who had sold his company to Intel for $7.7 billion in 2010 - had lived in a self-imposed exile for years, globe-trotting and living on his 'Freedom Boat' in the Caribbean after being accused of murdering his neighbor in Belize in 2012.
He always denied the murder but had been ordered to pay $25 million by a court in Florida in 2015 which found him 'liable' for expat Gregory Viant Faull's death.
US authorities claimed he had earned millions over the last decade, failed to pay taxes and accused him of fraud by touting cryptocurrencies to his millions of Twitter followers in order to inflate prices and rake in profits.
He finally fled the US in January 2019, leaving his heavily-fortified Tennessee compound with his former prostitute wife Janice after claiming a Grand Jury was convened to indict him on tax-related charges.
In June 2019, while claiming he was trapped in Cuba, McAfee tweeted: 'I've collected files on corruption in governments. For the first time, I'm naming names and specifics. I'll begin with a corrupt CIA agent and two Bahamian officials.
'Coming today. If I'm arrested or disappear, 31+ terrabytes of incriminating data will be released to the press.'
McAfee's tweets to that effect and his correspondence with prominent figures have been the focus of much conjecture about his demise today.
Eric Weinstein, a political commentator, mathematician and investor, revealed a tweet sent to him by McAfee last year in which he asked him about Epstein and whether the paedophile had been connected to intelligence agencies.
Weinstein had previously revealed meeting Epstein in the early 2000s.
In the message sent via Twitter on March 13, 2020, McAfee writes: 'I watched one of your interviews about Epstein. Awesome interview. Was he connected to an intelligence Agency? Where did his fortune come from? Why no one has spiken (sic) with Wexler ... etc.'
He continues: 'I am mire unterested (sic), however, in how he met his death, and its bizarre circumstances and manipulations.'
Sharing the message last night, Weinstein said that not only had he met Epstein in the early 2000s, but also that the financier had been 'asking after me in a late email just before he died. I have no idea why.'
Weinstein said he had no recent contact with McAfee but was 'quite concerned now given John's 2020 call.'
Another tweet which has generated a lot of interest is a photo that McAfee took of a tattoo he got in November 2019, which says: '$WHACKD.'
Accompanying the picture, he wrote: 'Getting subtle messages from U.S. officials saying, in effect: 'We're coming for you McAfee! We're going to kill yourself'. I got a tattoo today just in case. If I suicide myself, I didn't. I was whackd. Check my right arm. $WHACKD available only on http://McAfeedex.com.'
He had founded a meme cryptocurrency called WHACKD which he was promoting, as well as suggesting that people wanted to kill him.
A poster promoting the token which he shared a few days before depicted Hillary Clinton holding a slice of pizza and looking at a pair of feet dangling in the air as if from someone who had been hanged. 'Epstein didn't kill himself,' the poster said.
The charges against John McAfee:
Antivirus software pioneer John McAfee was facing 10 counts of tax evasion in Tennessee and seven counts of fraud and money laundering conspiracy in New York when he was found dead in a Spanish jail.
Tennessee prosecutors charged him with five counts of tax evasion and five counts of willful failure to file a tax return in a June 2020 indictment unsealed in October.
Prosecutors alleged he had earned more than $12 million between 2014 and 2018 - but failed to file any tax returns during this time.
If convicted, he faced 30 years in prison.
In March, McAfee and his bodyguard Jimmy Gale Watson Jr were both charged with seven counts of securities fraud by Manhattan federal prosecutors.
These are: conspiracy to commit commodities and securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities and touting fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and substantive wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy offenses.
The two men allegedly promoted cryptocurrencies to McAfee's more than one million Twitter followers in order to inflate prices and then sell the cryptocurrencies when prices rose, earning them and other McAfee Team members more than $11 million in payments.
Both McAfee and Watson faced up to 100 years in prison on these charges if convicted as well as financial penalties.
The Spanish prosecutor said Wednesday McAfee could be extradited, but only to face charges related to his tax returns of 2016, 2017 and 2018 in the tax evasion case.
These charges - six - would have carried a maximum of 18 years in prison
The pizza slice is a reference to the debunked 'pizzagate' conspiracy theory which claims that the Democrat Party trafficked children as part of a sex ring, with one of the establishments used in the alleged abuse a pizzeria in Washington D.C.
McAfee had continued to tweet until recently while in custody, with many of his statements being used by conspiracy theorists to corroborate the claim that he would not have killed himself.
In a pinned tweet from June 16, he wrote: 'The US believes I have hidden crypto. I wish I did but it has dissolved through the many hands of Team McAfee (your belief is not required), and my remaining assets are all seized. My friends evaporated through fear of association. I have nothing. Yet, I regret nothing.'
He also appeared to have been upbeat about life in the jail.
'Life in Spanish prisons is like the Hilton compared to the abject surrealism and dehumanization of American prisons. Here I am treated as a human being instead of a number,' McAfee said in a letter written to his wife in November.
Just minutes after McAfee's death was reported, his official Instagram account posted a plain image of the letter 'Q' in an apparent reference to another conspiracy: QAnon. It was not immediately clear who had access to his account.
The QAnon conspiracy theory, which came about during the presidency of Donald Trump, holds a wide range of odd beliefs including that Trump was secretly battling cannibalistic pedophiles who worship Satan.
His wife Janice McAfee further fuelled the conspiracy theories with a Father's Day post made just days before his death in which she speculated that 'US authorities are determined to have John die in prison.'
'I know John is an extremely polarizing individual. Believe me, I know this better than most! But I also know, as well as any of you who follow him on Twitter, that he has always been honest about who he is. ALWAYS. Sometimes too honest, sometimes sharing more than any of us cared to know about him!' Janice tweeted.
'John's honesty has often gotten him in trouble with corrupt governments and corrupt government officials because of his outspoken nature and his refusal to be extorted, intimidated or silenced.'
McAfee's body was discovered at the Brians 2 penitentiary in northeastern Spain on Wednesday. Security personnel tried to revive him, but the jail's medical team finally certified his death, a statement from the regional Catalan government said.
'A judicial delegation has arrived to investigate the causes of death,' the statement read. 'Everything points to death by suicide.'
McAfee's death was confirmed after Spain's National Court ruled in favour of extraditing McAfee, who had argued in a hearing earlier this month that the charges against him by prosecutors in Tennessee were politically motivated and that he would spend the rest of his life in prison if returned to the US.
The court's ruling was made public on Wednesday and was open for appeal, with any final extradition order also needing to get approval from the Spanish Cabinet.
McAfee was arrested last October following charges filed in Tennessee that month for evading taxes after failing to report income from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consulting work, made speaking engagements and sold the rights to his life story for a documentary. The criminal charges carried a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
Born in England's Gloucestershire in 1945 as John David McAfee, he moved to Virginia as a child and grew up troubled, with a father who 'beat him mercilessly' and killed himself with McAfee's shotgun when the boy was 15, said Steve Morgan, who spent time with McAfee in Alabama in 2016 to talk about his life for a biography he'd been contracted to write. Morgan is also the founder of market research firm Cybersecurity Ventures.
'He told me his father never showed him an ounce of affection,' Morgan said, adding that recounting his father's death was the only time during their long meeting that McAfee cried.
While McAfee's tech legacy may have been overshadowed in recent years by his tumultuous life, Morgan said he sees his most lasting impact as a software and security pioneer.
'I think that's how ultimately he really most like to be remembered. I think a lot of people will remember him as a very troubled soul. Some people will remember him as a criminal. It depends on your age and your exposure to him,' Morgan said.
McAfee founded his eponymous company in 1987. At the time, Morgan said, he was operating a BBS, a bulletin board system that served as a precursor to the World Wide Web and working with his brother-in-law. When the first major computer virus, called 'Brain,' hit in 1986, 'John instantly dialed up a programmer he knew and said, there's a big opportunity. We need to do something. You know, we want to write some code to combat this virus,' Morgan said. He called the program VirusScan and the company McAfee Associates.
'He was a true pioneer, not just as a security technologist but as one of the first companies to distribute software over the internet,' Morgan said.
California chipmaker Intel, which bought McAfee's company in 2011 for $7.68 billion, for a time sought to dissociate the brand from its controversial founder by folding it into its larger cybersecurity division. But the rebranding was short-lived, and Intel in 2016 spun out the cybersecurity unit into a new company called McAfee.
In the software industry, McAfee's claim to fame was that he offered the first all-in-one virus scanner, said Vesselin Bontchev, a Bulgarian computer scientist and an early antivirus researcher. Prior to that, said Bontchev, researchers would only scan for one virus at a time. But there were only about a dozen computer viruses back then.
'Technologically, as a scanner, it wasn't anything outstanding. It was just the general idea that was good. Not the implementation,' said Bontchev, a senior researcher at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Bontchev said McAfee was 'a peculiar guy,' even back then. He said he wrote McAfee asking for a part-time job about the time the Soviet Union was breaking up so he could work on a post-doctoral dissertation in the U.S.
In response, McAfee told Bontchev in a letter that the Bulgarian was believed to be a Soviet agent so 'they cannot work with me,' he said. 'This is a really bizarre way to say no to somebody who is asking for a job.'
The two later met in the U.S. at the annual Virus Bulletin conference, said Bontchev. 'I don't think he was a typical American. He was just weird.'
McAfee twice made long-shot runs for the U.S. presidency and was a participant in Libertarian Party presidential debates in 2016. He dabbled in yoga, ultralight aircraft and the production of herbal medications.
In 2012 he was wanted for questioning in connection with the death of Gregory Viant Faull, who was shot to death in early November 2012 on the island in Belize where both men lived.
McAfee told AP at the time that he was being persecuted by the Belizean government. Belizean police denied that, saying they were simply investigating a crime about which McAfee may have had information. Then-Prime Minister Dean Barrow expressed doubts about McAfee's mental state, saying, 'I don't want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid, even bonkers.'
A Florida court ordered McAfee in 2019 to pay $25 million to Faull's estate in a wrongful death claim. He refused to pay it, writing in a statement posted on Twitter that he has 'not responded to a single one of my 37 lawsuits for the past 11 years.' He claimed to have no assets, writing that the order was a 'mute point' - an apparent misspelling of 'moot.'
In July of that year he was released from detention in the Dominican Republic after he and five others were suspected of travelling on a yacht carrying high-calibre weapons, ammunition and military-style gear.
Wired Magazine reporter Joshua Davis spent six months investigating McAfee's tumultuous life in 2012, when he was living in Belize and being sought for questioning in connection with his neighbor's murder. He described watching as McAfee took out a pistol to illustrate a point.
''Let's do this one more time,' he says, and puts it to his head,'' Davies wrote. 'Another round of Russian roulette. Just as before, he pulls the trigger repeatedly, the cylinder rotates, the hammer comes down, and nothing happens. 'It is a real gun. It has a real bullet in one chamber,' he says. And yet, he points out, my assumptions have somehow proven faulty. I'm missing something.'
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