GUATEMALA CITY – US Internet security pioneer John McAfee requested political asylum in Guatemala, his lawyer said Wednesday, after fleeing Belize where he is wanted for questioning over his neighbor’s murder.
The former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, now a weathered 67-year-old, went on the run from his home on the Belizean paradise island of Ambergris Caye after neighbor Gregory Faull was murdered on November 11.
McAfee and girlfriend Sam Vanegas, 20, managed to evade Belizean authorities for more than three weeks, making it across the border into Guatemala over the weekend after devising elaborate ruses to confuse police.
“We are applying for political asylum,” McAfee told journalists in Guatemala City Tuesday, hours after securing the services of Telesforo Guerra, a former Guatemalan attorney general who is also Vanegas’s uncle.
But Guatemalan officials had said until now that they had not received a formal request.
Guerra told a briefing at the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday that the request had been made, claiming his client was being “politically persecuted” by Belize’s government.
McAfee “sought refuge in Guatemala because it was the nearest country, and his life was in danger,” he said.
The attorney insisted McAfee had been targeted by Belizean police and was a “victim of persecution and harassment.”
“McAfee is calm after being over there in a hell, being politically persecuted,” Guerra added.
Guerra said that he would consider asking President Otto Perez directly about McAfee’s asylum case.
“Here in Guatemala, he could cooperate with the government and with people. He has had a lot of charities for children and underprivileged kids. He is a very humanitarian spirit,” Guerra said.
On his blog, whoismcafee.com, McAfee said he would hold a press conference Thursday in Guatemala City.
McAfee amassed an estimated $100 million fortune during the early days of the Internet in the 1990s, designing the pioneering anti-virus software that bears his name, before opting out to become an intrepid adventure-seeker.
Faull, a 52-year-old Florida expat, was discovered on November 11 by his housekeeper with a 9mm slug in his head, lying in a pool of his own blood.
No charges have been laid against McAfee, who was embroiled in a bitter neighborly dispute with the deceased and has so far only been declared a “person of interest” in the case.
Three of McAfee’s associates have been remanded in custody for alleged firearm offenses and are expected in court in Belize on December 19.
McAfee decamped to Belize in 2009 after losing most of his fortune due to bad investments and the financial crisis.
According to a raft of profiles in the US media, his lifestyle became increasingly extreme as he descended into a hedonistic binge centered on experimental drug use and young prostitutes.