By Sam Jones for The Guardian
The antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee, who has been indicted for tax evasion in the US after allegedly failing to declare earnings running into millions of dollars, has been arrested by Spanish police while attempting to board a flight from Barcelona to Istanbul.
A June indictment charging McAfee with tax evasion and wilful failure to file tax returns was unsealed in federal court in Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday after McAfee’s arrest in Spain, where extradition is pending, the US attorney’s office said.
McAfee, 75, has been charged with evading taxes after failing to report millions earned promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements and the sale of the rights to his life story for a documentary.
According to prosecutors, he hid assets from the Internal Revenue Service, including real estate property, a vehicle and a yacht, in the names of other people.
The securities and exchange commission has also brought civil charges against McAfee, alleging he made more than $23.1m (£18m) in undisclosed compensation from false and misleading cryptocurrency recommendations.
A Spanish police source said McAfee had been arrested at Barcelona’s El Prat airport on 3 October.
“He was travelling to Istanbul and when his documents were run through the database, it emerged that he was the subject of a US warrant on fraud charges,” said the source.
Judicial sources told Reuters McAfee had appeared before a high court judge via videolink after his arrest and had been remanded in custody in a Catalan jail pending the extradition process.
Following his detention, McAfee’s official Instagram account posted a “Free McAfee” message accompanied by a photo of him.
The US indictment alleges that McAfee failed to file tax returns from 2014 to 2018, despite receiving “considerable income” from several sources. The indictment does not allege that McAfee received any income or had any connection with the antivirus software company bearing his name during those years, prosecutors said.
If convicted of all charges, he could face up to 30 years in prison.
Since making a fortune with the antivirus software in the 1980s that still bears his name, McAfee has become a self-styled crypto-currency guru, and has 1 million followers on Twitter.
But in recent years, his personal life had drawn as much interest as his professional achievements. He became the subject of frenzied media scrutiny following the unsolved 2012 murder of a neighbour in Belize. McAfee said he knew nothing about the murder, but was worried he may have been the attacker’s intended target.
When the police found him living with a 17-year-old girl and discovered a large arsenal of weapons in his home in the Central American country, McAfee disappeared on a month-long flight that drew breathless media coverage.
The dead neighbour’s family later filed a wrongful death suit against McAfee and last year a court in Florida found against him, ordering him to pay the family more than $25m.
In 2015, McAfee was arrested in the US for driving under the influence and possession of a gun while under the influence.
He was released from detention in the Dominican Republic in July 2019 after he and five others were suspected of travelling on a yacht carrying high-calibre weapons, ammunition and military-style gear, officials in the Caribbean island said at the time.