While the British-born cryptocurrency promoter first rose to prominence by releasing the first commercial anti-virus software, igniting what would become a multi-billion dollar industry, his final years were mired in controversy.
In October of last year, the tycoon was arrested in Spain and accused of failing to file tax returns for at least four years, despite having made millions.
The US Justice Department accused McAfee of evading tax liability by having money paid into a number of different accounts. He was also accused of concealing assets, including real estate and a yacht.
Who was McAfee?
Born in Gloucestershire, England, McAfee first launched his software company McAfee Associates in 1987.
He headed the company until 1994 before resigning amid the company’s early success.
The company was purchased by Intel in 2011 but it maintained McAfee’s name, which is still emblazoned on McAfee anti-virus software.
McAfee would go on to found a string of companies after leaving, including Tribal Voice, QuorumEx, and Future Tense Central.
He has also held leadership roles in a number of other companies, including MGT Capital, Everykey, and others.
Years mired in controversy
McAfee faced repeated controversies in the years before his indictment.
In 2012, he was at the center of international attention after Belize police named him as a “person of interest” following the death of his neighbor, Florida businessman Gregory Faull.
The magnate had denied any involvement in his death.
In 2019, he was detained in the Dominican Republic, where he and five others were accused of traveling on a yacht carrying high-caliber weapons, ammunition, and military-style gear.
That same year, he had also announced outright on Twitter that he had not filed tax returns for eight years, because, he said, “taxation is illegal”.
Work promoting cryptocurrency
The cybersecurity pioneer was also a keen promoter of cryptocurrency.
In an interview with The Independent in 2018, he revealed he charged $105,000 for a single tweet about the digital assets.
“I’m the only person in the crypto field that has openly divulged the outrageous amounts of money charged by crypto promoters,” he said..
“It’s embarrassingly huge, but it’s true. I have been getting these fees for over six months. I decided to go public with it because I am an advisor to many of these companies and I know that I’m in the cross-hairs of the SEC [US Securities and Exchange Commission], so it is in my interests to prove transparency.”
Just one promotional post about a digital currency to McAfee’s twitter followers caused the price to rise in value from between 50 and 350 percent.
Despite facing repeated controversies, McAfee continued to pursue his ambitions, even seeking out the highest position in the United States twice over.
The software tycoon unsuccessfully pursued the Libertarian Party nomination to run for President of the United States in both 2016 and 2020.
McAfee announced in September 2015 that he would be running for president in the 2016 election as the candidate of a new political party called the Cyber Party.
He later re-announced his election bid asserting that he planned to instead seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party.
He lost that bid, however, but tried again in the following election, announcing in June 2018 on Twitter that he would be running for president again in 2020, whether with the Libertarian Party or another.
The tycoon ended up joining the race as a Libertarian, with a key part of his platform being to promote the use of cryptocurrencies.
In January 2019, McAfee tweeted that he would have to continue his campaign in “exile” after reports that he and his wife, along with campaign staff members, were being indicted by the IRS for tax-related felonies.
In March 2020, he tweeted that he was ending his 2020 campaign, before announcing plans to seek the vice-presidential nomination instead.
However, after asserting that “no one in the Libertarian Party” would consider him for VP, he said he was returning to the presidential race, before changing course again the next month and announcing that he had become Adam Kokesh’s vice-presidential candidate while also continuing his bid for the presidency.
Ultimately, he was not nominated, losing to Jo Jorgensen and Spike Cohen for the vice-presidential nomination.
McAfee feared being used as an example
In the days before his death, Addressing Spain’s National Court on June 15, 2021, via video link, he said: “If I am extradited, it is almost certain that I will spend the rest of my life in prison because the United States wants to use me as an example.”