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Imprisoned software tycoon John McAfee has described his ongoing experience locked inside a Spanish prison as a “fascinating adventure” and says he plans to never return to the US.
Nearly two years after fleeing the US with his wife and a handful of bodyguards, Spanish police arrested McAfee last month at the request of the US Department of Justice. Prosecutors are currently seeking to extradite him to face tax fraud charges.
It is the latest in a string of controversies for McAfee, who has been arrested numerous times since founding the eponymous antivirus company more than 30 years ago. He has previously been suspected of unlicensed drug manufacturing, carrying illegal weapons, and in 2012 police in Belize named him a “person of interest” in connection to the murder of his neighbour – though he was never charged and strongly denies any involvement.
Speaking exclusively to The Independent from the Brians 1 prison just outside Barcelona, where he has been incarcerated since early October, 75-year-old McAfee describes the latest stint as “by far the most entertaining” of all his stays behind bars.
“I am constantly amused and sometimes moved. The graffiti alone could fill a thousand-page thriller,” he says. “A few of my fellow prisoners have confided in me small pieces of their lives.
“One young man from Senegal confided that he is a guest here for stabbing random people. ‘They were bad people,’ he explained. Another confessed to ‘accidentally’ strangling his wife. He did not explain why it was an accident but you must admit – accidents do happen.
“All in all, it’s fascinating to watch and an adventure to experience.”
Prisoners and guards recognised him when he first went in, with some even asking him for his autograph. He is distinguished not only by his infamy and foreignness, but also by his tendency to wear a suit and tie.
“One nice aspect of Spanish prisons is that prison uniforms are not required. You may dress according to your means and desires,” he says. “I was issued an orange jumpsuit on arrival, as all are, and occasionally wear it when the mood strikes me. At other times I wear everything from a suit and tie to lounge wear.”
McAfee’s main point of contact with the outside world is his wife Janice, who remains in Spain but has so far been unable to visit him in person. Instead, she keeps in touch through eight-minute phone calls, providing updates about ongoing legal matters and other news.
She has started the #FreeJohnMcAfee and #FreeMcAfee campaigns on social media in an effort to raise awareness about his situation, while also offering support behind the scenes.
“Right now we are playing this situation close to our chests and I don’t want to reveal any details on how we are working to secure John’s release,” she tells The Independent. “This is an obvious political scheme on the part of the US government and we are working on strategies to reveal this obvious scam.”
The controversial libertarian has claimed in recent years that he has been pursued by various branches of federal law enforcement agencies, including the CIA and FBI. The latest arrest relates to the Inland Revenue Service.
Prosecutors in Tennessee, where McAfee lived before leaving the US, claim McAfee hid property, a yacht and other assets from the IRS. When McAfee fled the country in January 2019 with his wife and bodyguards, he took the yacht to the Carribean but soon faced further troubles with local police. After hopping from the Bahamas to Cuba, his entourage was detained in the Dominican Republic for carrying high-calibre weapons, ammunition and military-style gear without declaring them.
McAfee says they were arrested before they even had a chance to declare them, and were threatened with deportation to the US. “A couple of decent lawyers prevented that, at which point they asked us where we wanted to go. I said England, that’s where they sent us,” he says.
A June indictment, unsealed last month, accused McAfee of tax evasion and wilful failure to file tax returns between 2014 and 2018. McAfee freely admits this, saying he has not in fact paid taxes for 10 years and informed the IRS of his refusal to file returns “in principle”. The agency’s decision to pursue his case only came after he announced his intention to run for president under the Libertarian banner, he claims.
McAfee came close to winning the Libertarian Party candidacy in 2016, losing out to Gary Johnson, and planned to run again in 2020. Instead, he was forced to follow this year’s US elections from prison, drip fed morsels through phone calls with his wife.
His refusal to pay tax aligns with the Libertarian Party’s policy on the issue, which states, “forcing people to pay taxes is inherently wrong”. The Libertarian Party did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent about whether it was assisting McAfee in any way with his legal situation.
If convicted in the US of all charges, McAfee faces up to 30 years in prison. However, he claims there is “zero chance” that Spain will extradite him. “The courts will see the clear resentment of the American government toward my public condemnation," he says, adding that the possibility of him ever returning to the US is “extremely unlikely”.
Court dates remain pending.