Fugitive John McAfee seeks asylum in Guatemala

Fugitive John McAfee seeks asylum in Guatemala

File photo

Guatemala City:  American Internet pioneer John McAfee, wanted for questioning over the murder of his neighbour last month in Belize, is seeking political asylum in Guatemala, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

McAfee, 67, amassed huge wealth as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur in the 1990s, designing the hugely popular anti-virus software that bears his name and remains a leading industry product to this day.

In a plotline worthy of a Hollywood thriller, the multi-millionaire went on the run from his home on the idyllic Belize paradise island of Ambergris Caye hours after neighbour Gregory Faull was murdered on November 11.

With his 20-year-old girlfriend Sam Vanegas in tow, he managed to cross the border into Guatemala over the weekend and has secured the services of star lawyer Telesforo Guerra, a former Guatemalan attorney general.

"I have to manage his political asylum," Guerra told AFP after meeting McAfee early on Tuesday at a hotel in Guatemala City.

McAfee "is persecuted in Belize, persecuted politically because he stopped financing the government. They accuse him of a common crime. So what I have to obtain is an authorization of asylum," the lawyer said.

Asked whether McAfee fears being assassinated, Guerra said: "Yes, he fears for his life, because after having helped and supported the current government in Belize, they now want more and more money, which they pocket and don't invest."

McAfee, who maintains his innocence, has left a confusing and often contradictory trail of information about his life on the run on his blog, whoismcafee.com.

"It was not easy to exit Belize and required many supporters in many countries," he wrote on Tuesday.

"I am in Guatemala and will be meeting with Guatemalan officials this morning. If all goes well I will do a press conference tomorrow (Wednesday)," he added.

Before fleeing south into Guatemala, he put out a false report saying he had been captured near the northern Mexican border and claimed to have sent a "double" with a North Korean passport to Mexico as another decoy.

Internet users tracked a photo from a magazine on Monday to Guatemala, but McAfee initially claimed to have encrypted it to throw police off the scent.

"I apologize for all of the misdirections over the past few days," McAfee, who is traveling with two reporters from Vice magazine, wrote on Tuesday.

"Yesterday was chaotic due to the accidental release of my exact co-ordinates by an unseasoned technician at Vice headquarters," he said.

"We made it to safety in spite of this handicap. I had to cancel numerous interviews with the press yesterday because of this and I apologize to all of those affected."

Vice magazine put out an article on Tuesday with a photo showing Guerra and McAfee having breakfast and claiming that Sam, McAfee's partner on the lam, was actually the lawyer's niece.

"I have known Samantha for a year and a half. She is a remarkable young woman. I love her very much and we are getting married," McAfee is quoted as telling Guerra.

"Unfortunately you will have a potential criminal in the family. My apologies for that, and I will do the best I can to make it up to you," he added, reportedly prompting an amused response from Guerra.

Police say Faull, a 52-year-old Florida expat, was discovered by his housekeeper with a 9-mm slug in his head lying in a pool of his own blood.

Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow has described McAfee as "bonkers," saying he is only wanted for questioning as a "person of interest" in the case and urging him to give himself up.

Prior to his murder, Faull had led neighbours in writing a letter to the mayor complaining that McAfee's "vicious" dogs and aggressive security guards were scaring tourists and residents alike.

McAfee shot dead four of his dogs before fleeing, claiming they had been poisoned, possibly by Faull.

Police said the dogs were exhumed last week and ballistics experts are seeing if the slugs match up with the one found in Faull's head.

McAfee decamped to Belize in 2009 after losing an estimated $96 million of his $100 million fortune due to bad investments and the financial crisis.

According to profiles in The New York Times and tech magazine Wired, his lifestyle became increasingly extreme as he descended into a drug-fuelled existence centered on young prostitutes.

McAfee was briefly incarcerated in April after police found him living with a 17-year-old girl and discovered an arsenal of seven pump-action shotguns, one single-action shotgun, and two 9-mm pistols.

Story First Published: December 05, 2012 00:15 IST

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