Fugitive antivirus pioneer John McAfee could soon be released from detention in Guatemala where he is being held on charges that he entered the country illegally in an attempt to escape authorities in Belize where he is wanted for questioning in connection with a murder.
The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday quoted McAfee's lawyer Telesforo Guerra as saying that a Guatemalan judge had ruled that McAfee's detention was unlawful and that he was entitled to a period of up to 10 days to straighten out his immigration status.
According to the lawyer, McAfee could be released by Thursday or Friday. He is expected to file a petition seeking an immediate return to the U.S., the Times quoted Guerra as saying.
McAfee's supporters greeted news of his rumored release from detention in Guatemala with enthusiasm. On a blog site run by McAfee supporters, several expressed relief at the latest development and hoped that the former tech guru would soon arrive back in the U.S.
"We weren't gonna let you go back to Belize John!!!!!," one poster commented on the website . "We are HERE with you."
If McAfee's motion to return to the U.S is granted, it would be a major reprieve for the 67-year old McAfee. The millionaire founder of the eponymously named antivirus software company has been running from police in Belize ever since his neighbor, Gregory Faull, a fellow American, was found shot to death in his home on Nov. 10. McAfee and Faull are rumored to have had a disagreement over several guard dogs that McAfee owned.
In media interviews while on the lam, McAfee maintained his innocence and claimed that he had nothing to do with Faull's death. He consistently maintained that he would be harmed and possibly killed if he were to surrender to Belize police.
Law enforcement authorities in Belize, and even the country's prime minister, have dismissed McAfee's claims as that of a paranoid and delusional individual. They have insisted that McAfee is not a suspect in the murder and is only a person of interest in the case.
McAfee, and his girlfriend have been on the run from Belize police since Nov. 10. Last week the pair, along with a couple of reporters from Vice magazine, managed to slip into Guatemala after what they portrayed as an often dramatic three-week run from Belize police.
Immigration authorities in Guatemala detained McAfee soon after his arrival in that country. Barely a day later, his petition for political asylum in Guatemala was rejected and McAfee was scheduled for deportation back to Belize last Friday.
Shortly after the decision was announced, McAfee collapsed in his cell in an apparent heart attack and had to be rushed to a Guatemalan hospital. Some saw the entire episode as a desperate bid by the antivirus wizard to delay his deportation back to Belize. McAfee was later returned to detention after doctors diagnosed his condition as probably stress-related rather than a heart attack.
In the weeks that he has been on the run, McAfee has tried to portray himself as a largely misunderstood and misrepresented individual. In an interview with ABC News, the McAfee faulted the mainstream media for portraying him as an erratic individual whose actions were fueled at least in part, by an addiction to psychotropic drugs.
However, McAfee's actions and the circumstances surrounding his life for the past few months have not helped his cause. Earlier this year, more than three-dozen Belize police raided his home on suspicion that he was operating a meth lab in that country. Though the raid yielded nothing incriminating, the chief of Belize's gang suppression unit has been quoted as saying that McAfee is believed to be involved with criminal gangs in that country.
Over the past several weeks, McAfee has voluntarily granted several interviews to major news media services even when he was running from the Belize police. On Tuesday, however, he accused reporters from one publication of deliberately leaking information about his whereabouts to Guatemalan authorities.
McAfee founded McAfee Inc., now a subsidiary of Intel, in 1987. He is believed to have made more than $100 million through McAfee but has had little association with the antivirus software company in recent years. He moved to Belize several years ago to establish a drug company called QuorumEx.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is [email protected].
Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.