An information security genius retires to Central America, where he dabbles in yoga, guns, and pharmaceutical research. An unknown assassin kills his neighbor, perhaps mistaking him for the security pro. When government agents turn up, the security pro goes rogue, burying himself in the sand, with his face shielded by cardboard so he can breathe. Over the next three weeks, he escapes over land and by boat to a friendly nearby country, where he requests asylum and promises to tell all.
As an episode of “24,” viewers might call that scenario forced. But it’s the actual ongoing case of real-life 67-year-old antivirus pioneer John McAfee, who fled Belize after being sought for questioning in the Nov. 10 murder of his neighbor, fellow U.S. citizen Gregory Viant Faull, 52. Along the way, McAfee claimed to create a diversion involving another “John McAfee” who was arrested with a North Korean passport in that name at the border between Belize and Mexico, before the real McAfee landed in Guatemala and began seeking asylum.
Having trouble keeping up with the unfolding drama, which is currently in the running for the wackiest information security-related story of 2012? Here are six related facts:
1. Murder charges haven’t been filed
Why did McAfee flee Belize? To be clear, no charges have been filed against him, and investigators in Belize have recently said that he’s not a suspect in Faull’s murder. But according to McAfee, authorities in Belize have attempted to frame him for the murder of Faull, after previously harassing him after he stopped donating money to the government. “Seven months ago the Belizean government sent 42 armed soldiers into my property. They killed one of my dogs, they broke into all of my houses, they stole, they arrested me and kept me handcuffed in the sun for 14 hours. I was taken to jail, and it was only the intervention of the U.S. embassy that got me out of jail,” said McAfee said in a video uploaded to YouTube by Vice magazine, which has had journalists shadowing McAfee from Belize to Guatemala.
2. McAfee alleges corruption in Belize
On Wednesday McAfee said he’d hold a press conference in Guatemala City Thursday, at which he promised to unveil proof of widespread government corruption in Belize. Just hours later, however, he was arrested by immigration police in Guatemala for having entered the country illegally. Since then, McAfee has been updating his blog from jail. Currently, a judge is reviewing his case and could opt to not return McAfee to Belize if it can be proven that his life would be in danger.
3. Guatemala rejects asylum application
After being on the run for three weeks, McAfee arrived in Guatemala by boat with his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sam Vanegas, and two journalists from Vice, which inadvertently disclosed his location via an iPhone photo. One of McAfee’s first actions after arriving in Guatemala was to obtain counsel and request asylum. His lawyer, Telesforo Guerra — a former attorney general of Guatemala and Vanegas’ uncle — filed the asylum request. In a press conference Thursday, however, Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina announced that McAfee’s request had been rejected, saying that the country had “no obligation” to grant his request.
4. Heart attack: false alarm
After his asylum request was rejected, McAfee Thursday was taken to a police hospital, complaining of chest pains. Earlier in the day, he’d declined to be taken to a hospital, saying that after suffering a heart attack in 2003, he preferred to use Chinese herbal medicine. “Last night I had a little bit of pain, but I am fine this morning,” he told the Associated Press. “I don’t like Western medicine … if the people around me are kind and compassionate, that’s all that matters in life. The people of Guatemala are very kind people, so I have no complaints.” Doctors who examined McAfee found no signs that he was having a heart attack, and suggested that the chest pains related to McAfee having consumed no food and little water over the preceding 24 hours.
5. Belize Hints At New Evidence
What might happen if — or when — McAfee returns to Belize? Technically, no warrant has been issued for his arrest by the country, meaning that after police questioning, he could be free to go.
Raphael Martinez, a spokesman for the Belize government, said that because charges haven’t been filed against McAfee, he could be held for only up to 48 hours for questioning, or longer if formally charged,reported ABC News. “There is more that we know about the investigation, but that remains part of the police work,” Martinez said, meaning that investigators may have as-yet-undisclosed evidence relating to the case. Regardless, Martinez argued that returning McAfee to Belize was “the neighborly thing to do.”
6. Banner year for asylum requests
It’s been a big year for tech-savvy types fleeing charges in one country to seek asylum in another. Indeed, 2012 has also been the year in which Ecuador granted asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The only wrinkle with that case, of course, is that the Australian national is holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London. British authorities have promised to arrest him, should he emerge, and send him to Sweden, where he’s wanted for questioning related to charges of sexual molestation and rape that have been filed against him.