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John McAfee’s death surprised his family, lawyer says, as autopsy is ordered

John McAfee seen on a screen
John McAfee is seen on a screen while testifying via video during an extradition hearing at the National Court in Madrid last week.
(Chema Moya / Pool Photo)

Authorities in Spain say that a judge has ordered an autopsy on the remains of John McAfee, the gun-loving antivirus pioneer, cryptocurrency promoter and occasional politician who died in a cell pending extradition to the United States for allegedly evading millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

A court spokeswoman for the Catalonia region said Thursday that a forensic team would need to perform toxicology tests on McAfee’s body to determine the cause of death and that results could take “days or weeks.”

For the record:

6:40 a.m. June 24, 2021An earlier version of this post said that John McAfee learned of the judge’s extradition ruling shortly after it was issued Monday. He learned of it on Tuesday.

Authorities have said that everything at the scene indicated that the 75-year-old tycoon took his own life.

The judicial investigation is being handled by a court in Martorell, a town northwest of Barcelona with jurisdiction over the prison where McAfee died. The spokeswoman wasn’t authorized to be identified by name in media reports.

McAfee’s Spanish lawyer, Javier Villalba, said the entrepreneur’s death had come as a surprise to his wife and other relatives, adding that he would seek to get “to the bottom” of his client’s death.

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“This has been like pouring cold water on the family and on his defense team,” Villalba told the Associated Press on Thursday. “Nobody expected it. He had not said goodbye.”

The unpredictable cybersecurity pioneer and sometime presidential hopeful is accused of failing to file U.S. tax returns from 2014 to 2018 and hiding assets including real estate, a vehicle and a yacht in the name of others.

Although Villalba said that he had no evidence of any foul play, he blamed the death on “the cruelty of the system” for keeping a 75-year-old behind bars for alleged economic rather than 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?” Villalba 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 that he allegedly evaded more than $4 million in taxes 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 on Tuesday and that his death Wednesday didn’t come in the heat of the moment. He also said that the legal team had been working with McAfee on an appeal to avoid his extradition.

Prosecutors say cybersecurity pioneer John McAfee used his Twitter account to push a variety of digital currencies without disclosing that he was being paid millions for the promotion.

A penitentiary source told the AP that McAfee had been sharing a cell in the Brians 2 jail, where he was put in preventive detention since his arrest in October on a U.S. warrant, but that at the time of his death he had been alone.

Prosecutors in Tennessee accused McAfee of failing to report income from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consulting work, earnings made in speaking engagements and money from selling the rights to his life story for a documentary. The criminal charges carried a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

The British-born entrepreneur led an eccentric life after selling his stake in the antivirus software company named after him in the early 1990s. He twice made long-shot runs for the U.S. presidency.

McAfee often professed his love for drugs and guns in public remarks. Some of his actions landed him in legal trouble beyond Tennessee, in Central America and the Caribbean. In 2012, he was sought for questioning in connection with the murder of his neighbor in Belize, but was never charged with a crime.


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