July 26, 2021

death of computer scientist, adventurer, criminal and internet star

His death made the headlines of the international press: John McAfee was found lifeless in his cell in Barcelona prison on Wednesday 23 June, where he was being held pending probable extradition to the United States. United. The first elements of the investigation indicate that the former businessman would have committed suicide.

Founder of the namesake antivirus publisher, John McAfee had left IT for almost three decades and was now best known for his serious run-ins with the law and his extravagant personality, which the media raved about. After the sale of his company in 1994, this “Self-proclaimed lover of women, adventure and mystery, had started a series of adventures which led him, according to his own count, to be arrested twenty-one times in eleven different countries”, remind him Washington Post.

Drug trafficking, tax evasion, carrying prohibited weapons, harassment … and above all an investigation for murder: in 2012, the Belize police wanted to question him in connection with the murder of one of the neighbors of his property in the island, found dead from a bullet in the head, and with which he had a dispute. According to Gringo : The Dangerous Life of John McAfee, documentary published in 2016, he would have paid a hitman for this operation. If he has always denied having any responsibility for this event, a civil court found him responsible in 2018. Also according to this documentary, he would have organized the torture and beating of a man suspected of having burgled his home. This man, David Middleton, did not survive his injuries.

John McAfee then fled. After an incredible escape, the police arrest him in Guatemala thanks to the metadata of a photograph published online by a journalist from Vice who accompanied him. He will eventually be sent back to Miami.

He will be arrested again in the United States, in Tennessee, for drunk driving and carrying prohibited weapons in 2015. After a long procedure, he will be ordered to pay 25 million dollars (20.9 million d ‘euros) in damages to the family of his ex-neighbor, but the criminal proceedings were never successful.

On the run for years

Despite the legal proceedings against him, John McAfee dreamed of being a politician. He was a candidate for the American presidential election in 2016, then in 2020. He wanted to adopt the colors of the Libertarian party but never obtained the official nomination. Wanted in the United States for tax evasion, he notably launched his campaign for the 2020 presidential election from the port of Havana, Cuba, declaring: “I am wanted as a criminal by the government for which I am running for president”.

This campaign, which he did not complete, was for him a way to promote cryptocurrency. Because in the meantime, John McAfee – who admitted not really knowing how to program – had indeed converted into a cryptocurrency guru. He had even created one, called “Epstein did not commit suicide”, taking up a conspiracy theory on the death, by suicide, of the American billionaire. This new passion brought him new legal problems in the United States, where he was charged, as well as his bodyguard, with fraud and money laundering in connection with cryptocurrency transactions. The gendarme of the American stock exchange also accused him of having promoted cryptocurrency for remuneration.

The US tax authorities finally suspected him of not having declared significant income – he boasted in the press that he had not made a declaration for several years. Arrested in 2020 by the Spanish police, he was waiting in prison for a possible extradition to the United States, to which a judge had given, a few hours before his suicide, a first favorable opinion.

John McAfee’s real financial situation remains a mystery, however. In 2008, the New York Times was already explaining that he had lost most of his fortune. A week ago, he wrote on Twitter that he had lost everything. “The United States thinks I have hidden cryptocurrencies. I would like but everything has melted (…) and my remaining possessions were seized. All my friends have disappeared for fear of being associated with me. I have nothing, but I do not regret anything. “

Repeated provocations

Was he telling the truth? Impossible to know, so much John McAfee has spent most of his life telling incredible stories that fueled his legend. At a interview with internet users in 2013, he had claimed to have lived “At 99%” drug trafficking when he was a computer developer, between 1971 and 1982. “My right testicle was smashed with a hammer in 1974 when I got into trouble with a local drug lord in the state of Oaxaca [Mexique]. It’s the size of a grape now, and the shape of a little Frisbee. I have been to Mexican prisons on three different occasions, and frankly I do not recommend them ”, he wrote at the time, without the veracity of these anecdotes being fully established.

He also told how he had been the victim of kidnapping attempts (and how on one occasion his wife had been an accomplice) or how he had sex with a whale (he will explain later that it was a lie intended to prove how gullible people are) .

For years, he had used his Twitter account, followed by more than a million people, to multiply provocations and fanciful statements. He had warned that if he was to be found dead, “It would not be a question of suicide but of an assassination”, or that, in such a case, most of “31 terabits of data” that he claimed to have collected would prove “Government corruption”, and would be sent to the press.

Even dead, John McAfee continued his provocations, probably by having scheduled publications in advance, or with the help of a third party having access to his accounts on social networks. A few hours after his death, an image of the letter “Q” was indeed posted on his Instagram account: this reference to the conspiracy theory QAnon immediately created a heated debate among his supporters. John McAfee had publicly joked several times that he was or knew the identity of “Q”, the mysterious informant at the heart of this conspiracy theory.

The world