Cryptocurrency evangelist John McAfee arrested in Spain, wanted in US over tax evasion

Anti-virus software creator and cryptocurrency advocate John McAfee is arrested in Spain after US regulator files charges of tax evasion

John McAfee at the Malta Blockchain and AI Summit in 2018
John McAfee at the Malta Blockchain and AI Summit in 2018

Anti-virus software creator John McAfee has been arrested in Spain and faces extradition to the US where he is wanted for tax evasion.

McAfee is being charged with failure to file tax returns for four years, despite earning millions from consulting work, speaking engagements and crypto-currencies.

One of those speaking engagements is purportedly McAfee’s participation in the Malta Blockchain Summit held in 2018

A cryptocurrency evangelist and libertarian, McAfee has openly claimed not to have paid taxes, telling MaltaToday two years ago that he was a “big advocate of personal freedom”.

None of the income under scrutiny is connected to the software firm which bears his name.

In a statement the US Justice Department said McAfee allegedly evaded tax liability by having his income paid into bank accounts and cryptocurrency exchange accounts in the names of nominees. As a result, it is alleged, he failed to file any tax returns from 2014 to 2018.

He is also accused of concealing assets, including a yacht and real estate property, in the names of others.

If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.

The Security and Exchange Commission, the American regulator, alleges that McAfee made over €19.5 million by "leveraging his fame" and recommending seven cryptocurrency offerings between 2017 and 2018, which allegedly turned out to be "essentially worthless", without disclosing that he was paid to do so.

The SEC is seeking to impose a civil penalty on him, and disgorge him of any "allegedly ill-gotten gains", with interest. It also wants to permanently ban him from serving as an officer or director of any listed company, or any company which files reports to the SEC.

The SEC has also charged McAfee's bodyguard, Jimmy Watson, with aiding and abetting the sale of digital currencies, along with other allegations.

A controversial figure, McAfee came to prominence in the 1980s when he founded a company that released the first commercial anti-virus software that bears his name. The business has since been sold off.

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