McAfee reportedly hospitalized after arrest in Guatemala
John McAfee, who is expected to be flown back to Belize for questioning in the death of his neighbor after Guatemalan authorities denied his request for political asylum, was rushed to a hospital Thursday after possibly suffering two mild heart attacks.
McAfee, founder of the antivirus software company of the same name, was taken away on a stretcher from a Guatemalan immigration department facility where he was being detained, according to a Reuters report.
After nearly a month on the run from Belizean authorities, McAfee surrendered to Guatemalan police and Interpol agents Wednesday on charges of illegally entering the country. McAfee bragged of sneaking across the Guatemala-Belize border on Tuesday with two journalists and a girlfriend in tow.
McAfee spent the night in a Guatemalan facility and continued to blog, as he has done throughout his nearly monthlong evasion from police questioning. McAfee said in his blog that U.S. Embassy officials denied his request to be returned to the U.S. instead of Belize.
McAfee’s request for asylum in Guatemala – based on his claim that the police in Belize were persecuting him for failing to pay bribes – was denied Thursday without further comment by Guatemalan officials, and Belizean authorities expect him to be flown back to their country soon, The Associated Press reported. In Belize, the former Silicon Valley antivirus software pioneer is a “person of interest” in the killing of Gregory Viant Faull, according to officials; McAfee counters that Belizean authorities are crooked and will kill him if they capture him.
Faull, an American who lived part time next to the beachside compound McAfee owned in Belize, was found shot to death on Nov. 11 by his housekeeper. About a month before his slaying, Faull hand-delivered a letter to the local town council complaining about McAfee’s security detail and his dogs. Two days before Faull’s death, several of McAfee’s dogs were poisoned, though he has said that the Belizean authorities are responsible for the poisonings and possibly the shooting.
The 67-year-old claims to have used disguises to hide in plain sight from authorities while proclaiming his innocence in the death of Faull, 52. McAfee maintains that Belizean authorities in San Pedro Town — where he lives with armed guards and, by his own accounts, a coterie of young women — are out to get him for failing to pay a bribe.
San Pedro Town Police spokesman Raphael Martinez told the San Jose Mercury News on Monday that investigators still considered McAfee a “person of interest” in Faull’s killing, but no charges await him in Belize for evading their questioning, Martinez said.
McAfee’s namesake company produces McAfee antivirus software, a pioneering product widely in use today around the world. In the process, its founder became a multimillionaire, wealthy enough to pursue an extraordinary range of passions, from modern art and yoga to antique automobiles and desert-skimming aircraft.
McAfee’s fortune, which had been once estimated at around $100 million, reportedly shrank to about $4 million in the soured economy.
The company that still bears his name is now owned by Santa Clara chipmaker Intel Corp.
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As the head of McAfee Associates, he staffed his business in Santa Clara, Calif., with an entourage that included a group of Wiccans — practitioners of pagan religion — while he nurtured a company culture that saw its employees participating in a risque office game that awarded points based on where and what time of day they had sex in the building.
“I didn’t look down on anything as long as work got done,” he told the Mercury News in a 2001 interview, although he said he was unaware of the office sex tournament.
Long before authorities began searching for him, McAfee had been following his own path of unconventional pursuits.
After graduating from Roanoke College in Virginia in 1967, the British-born McAfee worked as a software engineer at Lockheed in the 1980s. He also briefly ran the American Institute for Safe Sex Practices, which provided identification cards to people who tested HIV-negative.
When that business died, McAfee turned to the growing problem of computer viruses and in 1987 founded McAfee Associates, which broke ground in antivirus software, becoming an early Silicon Valley success story.
But managing dozens of employees wasn’t something McAfee enjoyed, he once told the San Jose Mercury News, and he quit the company in 1994, moving to Woodland Park, Colo. There, he built a 10,000-square-foot home with three guesthouses and four trout ponds and launched another enterprise, Tribal Voice, an Internet chat site that he sold for $17 million in 1999.
During this period, McAfee taught yoga and sang Vedic chants. He also reportedly rode around on all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, personal watercraft and lightweight aircraft called “trikes” in Arizona and at a 157-acre New Mexico ranch he bought in 2004.
But two people died in a trike accident at the ranch in 2006 and one of the victim’s relatives blamed it on McAfee’s negligence, slapping him with a lawsuit that is still pending.
McAfee moved to Belize two years later. In 2009 he sold the ranch — reportedly his last U.S. possession — to avoid paying damages for the accident, according to the victim’s lawyer, Frank Fleming.
“He believes he is beyond the power of execution of any American judgment in Belize,” Fleming told the San Jose Mercury News, adding that he believes McAfee sold off his U.S. property so he’d have no assets here to seize.
But in a 2010 interview with the publication Fast Company, McAfee said he wanted to go to Belize to help humanity by developing a new kind of antibiotic from the herbs that grow in the rain forests there.
(Dan Nakaso and Steve Johnson of the San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report.)
©2012 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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