The founder of the antivirus McAfee, arrested in Spain for tax crime

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The US Justice accuses him of evading taxes between 2014 and 2018 and of profiting from the sale of cryptocurrencies without warning

John McAfee, the controversial founder of the computer antivirus company that bears his name, has been arrested by the National Police at the El Prat airport in Barcelona, ​​at the request of the US authorities, accused, among other crimes, of evading millions of dollars in taxes from the profits he allegedly would have earned from activities like trading cryptocurrencies The US State Department of Justice announced on Monday the charges against McAfee and explained that the extradition process from Spain was pending, according to the British newspaper. Financial Times and sources from the National High Court have confirmed to EL PAÍS. The US securities supervisor, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also filed civil charges against McAfee.

The eccentric millionaire was intercepted last Saturday at the El Prat airport at about half past nine in the morning when he was about to take a flight from the Turkish Airline company to Istanbul, police sources detail. It was the culmination of an investigation initiated by the National Police two months earlier, after Interpol included McAfee on July 24 on the list of most wanted persons with a code red -priority- at the request of the United States. FBI reports then pointed to that the businessman could be in Spain and move through the countries of the Schengen area (23 countries of the European Union, in addition to Switzerland, Norway and Iceland), according to sources of the investigation. The Spanish police focused the investigations in Catalonia after they managed to identify in a photo that McAfee had posted on a social network the place where it had been taken as a restaurant specializing in Mediterranean and Japanese food in the town of La Pineda, in Tarragona.

It was not the first time that there was public evidence that the businessman could be in this province. Last March, when the coronavirus crisis broke out, McAfee was precisely in Tarragona, from where he started a newspaper on social networks to complain that the mobility restriction measures that were taken then prevented him from moving as he pleased. He spoke of “insanity” and “martial law” and complained about the scaremongering unleashed by a virus that, in his words, kills less than the flu, posting videos in which it became clear that he was skipping confinement.

Police sources detail that after verifying that the businessman was still in Tarragona, inquiries were made in hotels in the area as well as in the homes of acquaintances or friends that the millionaire could have on the Catalan coast, without positive results. What they did find out is that McAfee had left Spain in mid-August to travel to Germany, from where he had returned on a private flight that landed at Reus airport. These same sources detail that it was McAfee’s high mobility that led the researchers to focus their efforts on airports and, especially, those in Madrid, Malaga and Barcelona, ​​as they were the ones with the most connections abroad, to Whose police officers reported the existence of the search and arrest warrant against him.

It was in the Catalan capital where, last Saturday, the businessman was finally located after the agents crossed the travelers’ data with the Police databases and with the System of Administrative Records to Support the Administration of Justice (SIRAJ). Shortly after he was arrested. On Sunday, McAfee was placed at the disposal of the Central Court of Instruction 5, of the National Court, whose head, José de la Mata, took a statement from him by videoconference through the guard court of El Prat de Llobregat. At the end of it, the magistrate ordered his admission to preventive detention while the extradition order was processed. The businessman is being held in the Brians jail, in the town of Sant Esteve Sesrovires (Barcelona).

The American businessman is accused of allegedly hiding millions of dollars in income from the treasury of his country from the promotion of cryptocurrencies and the sale of the rights to publish his biography, according to the Department of Justice. The prosecution considers that the businessman used accounts in the name of other people to hide those income, obtained between 2014 and 2018. He also acquired, in the name of others, goods such as a yacht, according to the US justice.

The life of McAfee, 74, successful technology entrepreneur, founder of the computer security company McAfee, one of the most popular in the world, which sold to Intel for 7.6 billion dollars (6.45 billion euros) at the beginning of the decade past, it has been full of legal episodes ever since. First, he fled authorities in 2012 following the death of his neighbor in Belize. He took refuge in neighboring Guatemala and was later deported to the United States, although he was not finally charged with anything in relation to that case. In 2019, McAfee himself indicated that he had fled the United States because he was facing accusations from the treasury. In July of last year, he declared to a press agency from Cuba that he had not paid taxes for the last eight years. “I will not pay taxes again, it is unconstitutional and illegal,” he said. He was also detained in July 2019 in the Dominican Republic for carrying weapons on his yacht.

According to the Justice department, he has not paid taxes for five years, between 2014 and 2018. The file was opened in June, but has remained secret until his arrest. In addition, according to the civil indictment of the SEC, he has promoted the purchase of cryptocurrencies to his followers of the social network Twitter without warning that he was being paid for that promotion, for which, according to the stock market authority, he pocketed more than 23 million dollars (19.5 million euros). Along with McAfee, his bodyguard, Jimmy Watson, is also charged.

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