Guatemala on Wednesday put antivirus pioneer John McAfee aboard an airliner bound for Miami, deporting the former software tycoon to his native United States rather than to Belize, which he fled amid an inquiry into the murder of a fellow American.
“I’m being expelled,” McAfee told Bloomberg TV minutes before his midafternoon departure. “I have no choice in the matter. However, I am perfectly happy with the decision.”
McAfee, 67, caused an international stir with his escape a month ago from Belize, replete with breathless blog postings alleging persecution and calls and emails to foreign journalists to update them on his underground journey, his 20-year-old girlfriend at his side.
McAfee became a “subject of interest” to Belizean police after the killing Nov. 11 of an Orlando, Fla.-area building contractor at his home a few hundred yards from McAfee’s beachfront property on Ambergris Caye, a tropical retirement destination near the world’s second longest barrier reef.
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The murder victim, Gregory Faull, had quarreled with McAfee about the former software tycoon’s dogs and his penchant for wandering the area armed.
In typical fashion, McAfee’s final hours in Guatemala saw him swing between concern about the strains his plight had put on the Central American country and anger at journalists following his movements.
“The Guatemalans, by the way, have been as nice to me as my own family. The guards and orderlies have been supportive and have treated me with kindness,” McAfee posted earlier in the day on his blog at whoismcafee.com.
McAfee told Bloomberg that he’d penned an apology to Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina “for putting him in a very slippery position in the negotiations of a peace treaty with Belize.”
Guatemala and Belize have been embroiled in a territorial dispute for more than a century. Guatemala claims the southern half of tiny Belize as its own.
In a separate blog posting under what McAfee later said was a pen name, he lashed out at Vice Magazine, saying the outlet released a photograph carrying embedded location data about his whereabouts nine days ago, hoping that two journalists traveling with him would have “exclusive access” to his arrest.
McAfee said he would “terminate all contact with Vice.”
McAfee, an avid disciple of yoga and user of superlight aircraft and firearms, wanted people to keep their distance from his Belize home. Outside was posted a sign that read: “Never mind the dog, beware of owner.” Even so, he seemed to feed on attention from the media, chain smoking while offering interviews.
Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow called McAfee “bonkers” after he went underground, and the fugitive had both detractors who called him paranoid and unstable, allegedly exacerbated by a fondness for synthetic drugs, and admirers of his free-flowing, adventurous lifestyle.
McAfee reported during his three-week flight before turning up in Guatemala on Dec. 5 that he had slept in lice-infested huts to escape arrest by police.
McAfee made a fortune when he took public his software company, which bore his name and has become synonymous with protecting computers from viruses. He sold the company in 1994 and eventually moved to Belize in 2008, where he donated a $1 million coastal vessel to local law enforcement.
Belize and the United States signed an extradition treaty in March 2000, but as long as McAfee is not formally charged with a crime in Belize he appears safe from extradition while in the United States.
He told Bloomberg that he is still willing to speak with police in Belize – just not in person – about the murder of Faull, who was killed with a 9mm gunshot to the head.
“I’ve offered to talk to the police numerous times on the phone. This is not an issue of talking about a murder. It’s an issue of putting their hands on my person,” McAfee said.
Then in dramatic fashion, he added: “The officers are here with guns and I must leave” to board the departing American Airlines flight to Miami.