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Eccentric tech guru McAfee arrested, hospitalized in Guatemala

December 6, 2012

U.S. Internet security guru John McAfee, on the run from authorities in Belize over a murder probe, has been arrested in Guatemala for illegally entering the country, police said.

The arrest of the eccentric 67-year-old entrepreneur-turned-adventurer marks the latest twist in a novel-like tale of intrigue involving a murdered U.S. expatriate and allegations of drug-fueled escapades with guns and prostitutes.

Police spokesman Pablo Castillo told AFP late Wednesday that McAfee had been arrested for entering the country illegally and could be deported within hours to either Belize – where he has permanent residency – or the United States. On Thursday, his lawyer said he was rushed to the hospital “with a heart condition.”

“His status is illegal and he is being made available to immigration authorities so they can decide whether to deport him to his country of origin,” Castillo said.

The arrest came just hours after McAfee formally requested political asylum from Guatemala, with his attorney Telesforo Guerra claiming his client was a “victim of persecution and harassment” from the Belizean government. On Thursday, Guatemalan officials rejected McAfee’s asylum request and said they would deport him back to Belize.

“We have decided not to approve the political asylum that Mr McAfee is requesting,” Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina said on Thursday.

Guatemala’s foreign minister, Harold Caballeros, said that the anti-virus software pioneer would be sent back Belize.

“We received a request from Belize asking us to [return McAfee] and we will comply with it,” Caballeros said.

Pérez Molina said McAfee’s bid for refuge in Guatemala had been put through the appropriate official channels, but was turned down, although he declined to say why.

“The law allows us to decide if we wish to authorize it [the asylum] or not, and we are not required to give an explanation,” the Guatemalan leader said.

The former Silicon Valley entrepreneur had been in hiding for more than three weeks until he crossed the border into Guatemala on Monday with his girlfriend Sam Vanegas, 20, after devising elaborate ruses to confuse police.

Belizean authorities are seeking to question McAfee as a person of interest over the Nov. 11 killing of his neighbor, fellow U.S. man Gregory Faull, 52, who was shot in the head with a 9-mm and found in a pool of his own blood.

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.

He 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 U.S. media, his lifestyle became increasingly extreme as he descended into a hedonistic binge centered on experimental drug use and young prostitutes.

Jeff Wise, a science and adventure writer who has known McAfee for years, told Fox News recently that his increasingly odd behavior earlier this year had alienated much of the U.S. expatriate community in Belize.

“He started to get really heavily into this kind of synthetic, hallucinogenic hyper-aphrodisiac,” he said. “Everyone was scared of McAfee. He was walking around the beach carrying a gun.”

Police raided McAfee’s home in April and he was briefly incarcerated after he was found to be living with a 17-year-old girl and an arsenal of seven pump-action shotguns, one single-action shotgun, and two 9-mm pistols.

McAfee has denied any involvement in Faull’s murder and claims to have been “continually harassed” for several months by Belizean authorities, whom he accuses of being corrupt and out to get him.

McAfee says he fears for his life should he be returned to Belize, while Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow has described him as “bonkers,” saying he is only wanted for questioning.

“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 has a very humanitarian spirit,” Guerra said.

No charges have been lodged 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 Dec. 19.

This story was updated at 3:42 p.m. on Thursday.

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