Former anti-virus mogul turned fugitive John McAfee has appealed to be allowed to return to the United States rather than deported from Guatemala to Belize.
Authorities in Belize want to question McAfee as a person of interest in the murder of his neighbour, Gregory Faull. McAfee went into hiding with his 20-year-old girlfriend Samantha following the start of investigations into Faull's murder on 11 November.
McAfee become the target of a bizarre* and highly publicised man hunt over the subsequent three weeks before finally surfacing in neighbouring Guatemala, where he was arrested for illegal entry to the country. McAfee's location just before his arrest was spilled by the metadata embedded in a photo published by the online lifestyle mag Vice. Reporters from Vice were traveling with McAfee around the time he crossed the border from into Guatemala.
Arrest last week failed to dampen McAfee's spirits. He was given access to a computer and an internet connection, allowing him to update followers of his blog (which he started on the run) to his assessments that the local jails were better than those in Belize and the coffee was "excellent". McAfee requested asylum in Guatemala but the request was turned down by Guatemala's foreign minister: however a judge granted a stay of execution against deportation. McAfee was subsequently rushed to hospital with what at first appeared to be a minor heart attack but turned out to be only the results of the 67 year-old losing consciousness due to dehydration and ill-advised chain smoking during which he fell against a wall and further injured himself.
During a press conference on Sunday McAfee answered questions from reporters via a video stream from an immigration detention centre in Guatemala City. The one-man Hunter S Thompson tribute band said he'd decided he wanted to return to the US rather than continuing his quixotic anti-corruption blogging campaign while trying to stay one step ahead of the Belizean authorities, who McAfee claims are corrupt and want to do him in.
"The odyssey that Samantha and I have been on did not begin after the death of Mr Faull," McAfee said in a prepared video statement. "It began on 15 October after an abortive raid by the police of San Pedro and Belize City and since that time we have been on and off the run. After the death of Mr Faull we went underground in earnest."
McAfee, who looked sweaty but otherwise reasonably well, went on to deny reports he was paranoid or that he took "bath salts" (a potent synthetic, narcotic drug) or any other drugs for that matter.
"Our intent is to return to America, if at all possible, and settle down to whatever normal life we can settle down to under the circumstances," McAfee said in a Q&A session. "The intent to question me has nothing to do with Mr Faull's murder. Since April of last year the Belizean government has been trying to level charge after charge against me, all of them groundless. This is simply the latest in that chain. The government is however getting very serious. While I was in hiding there were eight raids on my property."
Corruption in Belize ranges from bribery to ex-judicial execution, McAfee claimed, adding that the accusations he has raised in his blog will have hurt tourism in Belize and further inflamed the anger of authorities against him.
"There is no hope for my life if I am ever returned to Belize," he said.
McAfee denied any involvement in Faull's death, insisting he'd left Belize to escape police persecution. McAfee moved to Belize in 2008, years after he made his fortune by selling his share in the computer security business he founded. He sold his share in McAfee Associates in 1994, seven years after founding the company.
McAfee is no longer much of a fan of the software that still bears his name. He told the FT that he took the software off his own computer. “It’s too annoying," he told the FT.
The tech tycoon was born in the UK and continues to hold British citizenship. He said that he'd also be willing to go back the the UK, where he hasn't lived since he was a child.
Meanwhile authorities in Belize continue to express exasperation about McAfee's conduct, while reiterating that he has nothing to fear should he decide to return home.
"He's really gone out of his way to make the country look bad," Belize police spokesman Raphael Martinez has said about McAfee. "We just believe he should, if he's innocent as he's saying he is, he should bring in his lawyer, and let's get to the bottom of this and say what he needs to say and let's move on." ®
*McAfee's activities on the run included shooting and burying his dogs after they were allegedly poisoned by police, donning various disguises including blacking up with boot polish and sticking a tampon up his nose to impersonate a Guatemalan trinket salesman and sending a look-alike over the Mexican border with a forged North Korean passport as a decoy.