John McAfee, the cyber security and software entrepreneur, was found dead in a Spanish prison cell on Wednesday, the same day the country’s high court ruled he should be extradited to the US on charges of evading millions of dollars in taxes.
A Catalan justice official said McAfee’s body had been found in the Brians prison, south of Barcelona. The Catalan justice department added in a statement that his death appeared to be suicide and that prison services tried and failed to revive him after he had been found in his cell.
Earlier in the day, Spain’s national court ruled that McAfee should be extradited to the US for “tax crimes relating to the years 2016, 2017 and 2018”.
McAfee had been taken into custody in Spain in October and was held under preventive detention. In November the US embassy delivered a formal request for his extradition. The US authorities alleged that McAfee had earned more than €10m between 2014 and 2018 but had paid no tax, and used frontmen to hide his wealth and income.
According to the US justice department, McAfee, who founded the antivirus software company that bears his name, hid millions of dollars of income from US tax authorities — including from promoting cryptocurrencies and selling the rights to his life story.
In rambling testimony last week in which he discussed at length his political ambitions, McAfee, who has previously sought the Libertarian party nomination for the US presidency, told the Spanish court he had paid millions of dollars in tax and that his companies had paid billions. He claimed that the US tax authorities were corrupt.
He added that for someone of his age — nearly 76 — he would certainly pass the rest of his life in prison if he were extradited to the US, and asked the court to “consider these questions”. But the prosecutor in the case accused him of exaggerating his political activity, describing him instead as a “tax rebel, a millionaire who does not want to pay taxes — which is a crime in every country, including the US”.
The court also dismissed McAfee’s health concerns as unsubstantiated, saying he was “not facing a perpetual sentence that would deprive him of liberty for life” if convicted.
McAfee was a highly successful software innovator a decade ago, and sold his cyber security McAfee group to Intel for $7.6bn. He went on the run after the 2012 murder of his neighbour in Belize. Although he was named as a person of interest in the investigation, he was never charged in connection with the Belize case.
In 2019, McAfee said he had fled the US on his yacht because he was facing criminal tax charges.