Decrypt’s Art, Fashion, and Entertainment Hub.
Among John McAfee’s many skills is storytelling. And whether its his phalanx of ex-military bodyguards, the credulous and vile British tabloids, or his millions of fans, most people usually believe him.
Most recently, McAfee claimed that he was being hounded by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for dodging taxes for the last eight years, and the CIA, for, er, something. There might even be a shred of evidence for this—last month, McAfee posted a document supposedly sent by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee to his lawyer asking for information about him, his wife and four of his associates.
Still, to us, the latest, spellbinding chase scenes seem more like smoke and mirrors than a smoking gun.
We caught up with McAfee today from his supposed hideout—which he said might be a “communications room in Lithuania.” He seemed very calm. He did not act like a man wanted by the feds, which sometimes, he claimed he was. At other times, he admitted he wasn’t.
“It’s perfect, we’re enjoying ourselves,” he said of his current situation in… wherever. His putative “Lithuanian” redoubt appeared to be a tin-foil encased dungeon, decorated with a montage of pictures of New York.
Escape from Cuba
McAfee insisted, believably, that some of his run-ins with law enforcement did, in fact, happen. For instance, during the past few weeks, he, and his wife Janice, were holed up twice in a Dominican Republic jail, a situation he did not recommend, though he looked comfortable and at home in pictures he tweeted.
McAfee said they were ostensibly arrested for having guns on his boat, which McAfee proclaims was simply a pretense to detain him. “All yachts that go in international seas have guns. It would be insane not to. There are pirates still in the seas, believe it or not.”
Instead, he said, the arrest was intended to send him back to the U.S.—where his enemies lie. Yet despite the supposed power of the IRS, the CIA, his lawyer was too good for them, and he was released.
During his time in the Caribbean, he was in Cuba for a bit, where he said he was also harassed by malevolent secret agents.
“In Cuba, we were followed by diplomatic plated cars from the Burkina Faso government in Africa. Think about this. America gave millions of dollars just two years ago to help them get elected. In Cuba, there’s no U.S. embassy so you can’t put CIA agents in embassies like they do everyone else, so they use Burkina Faso,” he said. (Note: There actually is a U.S. Embassy in Cuba.)
Reports said the Dominican Republic was going to hand him over to the U.S., which it believed was seeking his extradition. But McAfee said they were willing to deport him to the U.K. instead. “They tried to deport me to the U.S., but I pulled out my British passport and we filed a brief with the Dominican Republic courts.”
Also, according to what his lawyer told The Sun, Dominican authorities learned that he actually wasn’t the subject of any extradition requests in the U.S.
In any event, once that was sorted, the tech scion said he flew to London on Friday, where he breezed through border control.
“We had no trouble at the airport, no trouble anywhere,” he said. In fact, he slept like a baby in London—a country with a “special relationship” with the U.S., which is willing to hand pretty much anyone over. But no one bothered to extradite him. He stayed the night in the Strand Palace Hotel, where he said he got drunk with fans and passed out.
Although on Twitter, he was more dramatic, telling his following that, "DOJ and CIA kidnap teams were circling like vultures but we were safe with multiple witnesses."
But...but...if McAfee really were wanted by the U.S., which he again appeared to be claiming, wouldn’t he have been stopped at Heathrow?
McAfee said that he probably would have been extradited—but his timing was dead on.
“No paperwork goes through government agencies on weekends. We were safe until we left,” he said, puffing on his second cigarette. “Governments move like molasses.”
Down and passed out in London
And so he entered the country, where, on Friday evening, Decrypt’s own Ben Munster said he received a text from a source, featuring an unknown and unnerving phone number.
"Call this number," advised the messenger. Munster did.
After three rings, a dark voice answered. "Who is this?" Munster asked. But Munster knew: it was the violently intoxicated “fugitive” himself.
McAfee asked Munster to come down to drink with him at the Strand. "We're already obscenely drunk," he warned. "We'll probably be passed out in a heap when you arrive." Which turned out to be exactly the case.
The next week, McAfee tweeted that he and the missus had flown “to Lithuania.” But anyone seeing his recent tweets will note that they are instead geo-stamped from areas across the world, from Warsaw, Poland, to San Francisco.
But was/is he really in any of those places?
During his chat with us he said that that too, was hogwash—just a cover for his true location, which of course, he would not divulge. Indeed, he said he uses VPNs to make his tweets appear as if they were sent from different countries, noting, “I am a technical wizard, no-one knows where I am.”
OK, so is the whole thing just another of his wild publicity stunts? Is the notorious John McAfee—a U.S. Presidential candidate for god’s sake—really one step ahead of the long arm of the most powerful nation on earth?
It strains credulity. So we put it to him.
“I don’t give a flying fuck if you believe me or anybody,” McAfee said, picking up his third cigarette. “I’m just telling my story.”