Cyber security pioneer John McAfee is to be extradited to the United States from Spain on tax fraud charges, but he can still appeal ruling
Spain has authorised the extradition of controversial security and cryptocurrency expert John McAfee to the United States.
McAfee had been arrested in Barcelona airport in October 2020, after he tried to board a flight to Istanbul with a British passport. He was arrested over tax evasion charges in the United States.
McAfee was born on a US military base in the UK (to an American dad and a British mother), but he is considered a natural-born citizen of the United States.
In March this year, both McAfee and his executive adviser and bodyguard Jimmy Gale Watson Jr were indicted in the US on fraud and money-laundering charges related to alleged cryptocurrency schemes.
Essentially the US is accusing both men of promoting two cryptocurrencies to McAfee’s large Twitter following (1 million followers) to inflate demand.
As the coins’ prices rose, the pair allegedly sold off their holdings, making $13m (£9.4m) in profits, prosecutors said.
The tweets, dating from December 2017 to February 2018, promoted assets including Verge, Reddcoin and Dogecoin.
In the separate tax evasion from October last year, McAfee is accused of failing to file tax returns from 2014 to 2018, while concealing assets including a yacht and property.
McAfee and Watson also face civil charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which last October charged McAfee with concealing more than $23.1m he made from promoting seven cryptocurerrency offerings on Twitter.
Now Reuters has reported that the Spanish High Court has authorised the extradition of John McAfee, to the United States.
The hearing was reportedly held via videolink earlier this month, during which McAfee argued that the charges against him were politically motivated.
McAfee also reportedly said he would spend the rest of his life in prison if he was returned to the US.
McAfee could face a prison sentence of 30 years in the US if found guilty.
However, it should be noted that the Spanish court extradition decision can be appealed and the final extradition will need to be approved by the Spanish Cabinet.
And it should be noted that this is not the first time that McAfee has been jailed.
In July 2019 McAfee was detained for a number of days in South America, after Dominican Republic Armed Forces boarded his yacht in Puerto Plata.
Multiple high-calibre weapons as well as ammunition were reportedly seized during that arrest.
He was later released after being detained for bringing the weapons into the country.
But the most incident came in 2012, when McAfee went on the run after his neighbour in Belize and fellow US expatriate Gregory Faull was shot in the head in San Pedro Town on the island of Ambergris Caye.
Faull had reportedly confronted McAfee over his “vicious” dogs and aggressive, heavily armed security guards.
McAfee denied involvement in the murder after police in Belize said they wanted to question McAfee.
The security pioneer said he believed Faull had been killed in error, and the murderers were in fact after him.
This motivated McAfee to change his appearance and go on the run.
He hid in Belize jungle for three weeks, but then crossed into neighbouring Guatemala, where he was arrested by immigration officials for entering the country illegally.
He was eventually deported to the US, not Belize.
However Belizean police did not persist in seeking McAfee’s imprisonment for murder, making him a free man.
But in March 2019 a Florida federal judge ordered McAfee to pay $25m in damages over the 2012 death of Faull.
US District Judge Gregory A. Presnell had awarded the damages following a civil wrongful death lawsuit alleging that McAfee had ordered the murder of Gregory Faull.
Another interesting fact is that McAfee, who left the antivirus company that bears his name in 1994, has twice run for US president.