Please see the latest update (12/4) on this fast-moving story here: Fugitive Software Guru John McAfee Seeks ‘Asylum’ in Guatemala, Claims He’ll Be Killed in Belize
Update 12/3 10:30 a.m. EST: In a posting on his website, John McAfee (or someone writing under his name) claims that the fugitive software pioneer has fled Belize and is now safely outside the country “in the company of two intrepid journalist[s] from Vice Magazine, and, of course, Sam.” (Sam is the young woman McAfee has been hiding out with.) McAfee claims to have dispatched a body double carrying a North Korean passport under his name, who was briefly detained in Mexico, before being released. “I left Belize because of a series of events which led both Sam and I to believe that she was in danger of capture,” McAfee writes. He also suggests, as he has in the past, that the entire episode is the result of his one-man crusade to battle corruption in Belize. I’ll update the story as more details become available.
Three weeks ago, police in the small Central American country of Belize discovered U.S. software mogul John McAfee’s neighbor, 52-year old American businessman Gregory Faull, lying dead in a pool of blood with a 9-mm. bullet wound to the head. Just days earlier, authorities had been summoned to McAfee’s beachfront home after the eccentric software millionaire shot four of his own dogs, in order, he claimed, to put them out of their misery after they had been poisoned by unknown assailants.
Belizean authorities insist they only want to question McAfee about the murder — he hasn’t been charged with a crime. But rather than submit to questioning, the 67-year-old McAfee freaked out and declared that he would be killed if taken into custody by Belizean authorities. That, apparently, is why McAfee has decided to lead Belizean authorities, not to mention the international press corps, on a rapidly escalating wild goose chase that keeps getting weirder by the day. Reached by phone, a spokesman for McAfee claimed not to know where his client was, but acknowledged that McAfee is on the run.
“We have no idea where he is,” the McAfee spokesman told TIME. “But it seemed very unsafe for him to remain in Belize.” Earlier an item on McAfee’s personal website said: “We have received an unconfirmed report that John McAfee has been captured at the border of Belize and Mexico.” Belizean officials denied that report, but said they do not know McAfee’s whereabouts. The country’s prime minister has publicly referred to McAfee as “bonkers.”
Earlier Saturday, CNN aired a cloak-and-dagger flavored interview with McAfee, who was questioned by veteran correspondent Martin Savidge, after an elaborate set-up involving secret passwords, multiple cellphone numbers, and different drivers. “I will certainly not turn myself in, and I will certainly not quit fighting,” McAfee told CNN. He added that fugitive-living had begun to take its toll on his previously lavish lifestyle. “It hasn’t been a lot of fun,” he said. “I miss my prior life. Much of it has been deprivation. No baths, poor food.”
John McAfee is one of the more well-known figures to come out of Silicon Valley‘s software boom. He founded the anti-virus computer software firm that bears his name, and his net worth is estimated to have been $100 million at its peak. Nearly two decades ago McAfee left the company and hasn’t been involved since. In 2010, McAfee Inc. was acquired by chip giant Intel for $7.7 billion.
In 2008, McAfee moved to Belize, where he purchased several tracts of property, and soon launched a herbal drug venture. That’s when the trouble began. Instead of leading a quiet life of beach-front relaxation, McAfee reportedly embarked on a course of personal excess that allegedly involved a “retinue of prostitutes,” an exotic and highly dangerous designer drug known as MPVD (aka bath salts), and shotgun-toting enforcers. Science journalist Jeff Wise, who has travelled to see McAfee in Belize, said his most recent visit “really scared the hell out of me.”
“Around the time his herbal drug plan collapsed, he started to get really heavily into this kind of synthetic, hallucinogenic hyper-aphrodisiac,” Wise told FoxNews.com. “Everyone was scared of McAfee. He was walking around the beach carrying a gun.” Earlier this year, according to Wise, local authorities raided McAfee’s home, where the 67-year-old was found living with a 17-year-old Belizean girl, and discovered “seven pump-action shotguns, one single-action shotgun, two 9-mm. pistols, 270 shotgun cartridges, 30 9-mm. pistol rounds, and twenty .38 rounds.” After fourteen hours in custody, McAfee was released.
Wise also reported that McAfee allegedly liked to frequent drug-themed online message boards, where he discussed his affection for MPVD, and offered helpful pointers about how to consume the substance via rectal insertion. “I think it’s the finest drug ever conceived, not just for the indescribable hypersexuality, but also for the smooth euphoria and mild comedown,” McAfee is alleged to have written. Boasting of his expertise, McAfee allegedly added: “We’re in an arena (drugs/libido) that I navigate as well as anyone on the planet here.”
Meanwhile, according to The New York Times, McAfee embarked on a one-man crusade to “clean up” a small Belizean village named Carmelita, after being convinced by a local prostitute that the town was “riddled with crime and a hub of narco-trafficking.” McAfee reportedly “converted a local brothel into a bar and a family swimming-pool area, christening it Studio 54.” (Nothing unusual about that.)
Over the last few weeks since the murder of his neighbor, McAfee’s behavior has grown increasingly erratic, even by his own standards. He has called numerous journalists with rambling explanations of his conduct, including a now-infamous episode last Friday when he dropped the F-bomb live on CNBC (at 6:52 in this video). (A Wired magazine reporter described McAfee as “unhinged.”) Then, on Saturday morning, CNN aired its interview with McAfee, in which the network revealed the fugitive’s disguise.
No one has heard from McAfee since Friday night, and he did not return a request for comment left by TIME on his cell-phone voice-mail. According to his spokesman, McAfee has been on the run with another person, described as a young woman in her early twenties. It’s unclear if the pair have been separated, or even apprehended. McAfee’s camp could not confirm his whereabouts, but claimed to have been told that he had been taken into custody near the border with Mexico. Belizean officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a local reporter in Belize told the San Jose Mercury News that McAfee was still on the lam as of Saturday night. “I can tell you positively that John McAfee has not been captured,” Jorge Aldana, a senior reporter at the San Pedro Sun, told the paper.
San Pedro Mayor Daniel Guerrero, who’s in charge of the beachside town some 160 miles from Belize City, also knocked down reports of McAfee’s capture: “It’s not true.” Guerrero said that local police have informed him that McAfee is still at large, and said that officers have been conducting what the paper described as “house-to-house searches on the north end of Ambergris Caye, the island where San Pedro sits.” Meanwhile, McAfee is nowhere to be found.
It’s not clear how this saga will play out, but many questions remain. Has McAfee been caught somewhere near the Belize/Mexico border, as his website suggested? Or is he hiding out somewhere in the jungle in Belize, or even Guatemala, and laughing at everyone? If he is still at large, is he travelling with another person? Are they carrying any weapons or large sums of hard currency? If they are running, how do they plan to escape the country: by air, sea, or land? Finally, just what — if anything — does McAfee know about the murder of his neighbor?
One thing we do know for sure: McAfee is an extremely smart — if wildly eccentric — person with a penchant for publicity and practical jokes. He has repeatedly insisted that he will not turn himself in to authorities, claiming he would be killed if he did so. But as each day goes by, and McAfee’s predicament gains worldwide notoriety, this situation is growing increasingly bizarre. It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to keep running forever.