Spain‘s National Court has approved the extradition of detained antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee to the United States, where he is wanted on tax-related criminal charges that carry a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
The decision can be appealed and the final extradition will need to be approved by the Spanish Cabinet.
Tennessee prosecutors charged 75-year-old McAfee with evading taxes after failing to report income made from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consultancy work, as well as income from speaking engagements and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary.
The charges refer to the three fiscal years from 2016 to 2018, according to the Spanish court’s ruling on Wednesday.
John McAfee appears via videoconference during his extradition hearing at Audiencia Nacional court, in Madrid, Spain earlier this month
McAfee is seen in Cuba in 2019. Spain has approved his extradition to the US on tax charges, which he argues are politically motivated
The entrepreneur was arrested last October at Barcelona’s international airport. A judge ordered at that time that McAfee should be held in jail while awaiting the outcome of a hearing on extradition.
McAfee’s wife Janice said in a statement on Sunday that he had been targeted by prosecutors ‘for speaking out against the corruption within their government agencies.’
‘These eight months John has spent in prison in Spain have been especially hard on his overall health both mentally and physically, as well as financially, but he is undeterred from continuing to speak truth to power,’ she added.
In a hearing held via videolink earlier this month, McAfee also argued that the charges against him were politically motivated and said he would spend the rest of his life in prison if he was returned to the U.S.
McAfee linked the charges filed by the Internal Revenue Service to his failed bid to run as a Libertarian Party candidate in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, a second such attempt.
A view of the courtroom during the extradition hearing of John McAfee (not pictured), in Madrid earlier this month.
Spain’s National Court has approved the extradition of detained antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee to the United States
‘In late 2018, I announced I would run again and I also announced I would target the IRS and its corruption and two months later the IRS filed charged against me,’ he told the Spanish High Court during the first hearing of his extradition trial.
‘I believe the charges are politically motivated.’
McAfee added that that given his age, almost 76, he would spend the rest of his life in jail if he were to be convicted in the United States.
‘I am hoping that the Spanish court will see the injustice of this,’ he said, adding ‘the United States wants to use me as an example.’
In Washington, the IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Spanish prosecutor, Carlos Bautista, dismissed the claim of political motivations, insisting the Libertarian Party rarely gains more than 1 percent of votes in U.S. elections.
‘He is a tax rebel, nothing else. A millionaire who doesn’t want to pay taxes,’ Bautista said. ‘He will benefit from all guarantees of due process.’
In a prior arrest in Norway, McAfee was cited for refusing to wear a medical mask at an airport when he used one made from a thong instead
McAfee was arrested at Barcelona airport in early October when he was about to board a flight to Istanbul with a British passport.
U.S. federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment in October against McAfee over charges that he evaded taxes and wilfully failed to file returns.
That came shortly after the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed it had brought civil charges against McAfee, alleging he made over $23.1 million in undisclosed income from false and misleading cryptocurrency recommendations.
The Spanish prosecutor said McAfee could be extradited, but only to face charges related to his tax returns of 2016, 2017 and 2018.
US authorities also accused McAfee and his bodyguard, Jimmy Gale Watson Jr., of exploiting McAfee’s large Twitter following to artificially inflate prices of obscure cryptocurrencies through a so-called pump-and-dump scheme, and concealing payments McAfee received from startup businesses to promote initial coin offerings.
The Justice Department said McAfee and his accomplices reaped more than $13 million from the schemes. The charges were brought in Manhattan federal court.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed related civil charges concerning the alleged pump-and-dump scheme.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement: ‘As alleged, McAfee and Watson exploited a widely used social media platform and enthusiasm among investors in the emerging cryptocurrency market to make millions through lies and deception.’
Lawyers for McAfee could not immediately be identified. McAfee is being detained in Spain following his arrest there on tax evasion charges announced in October, the Justice Department said.
Watson was arrested in Texas in October. He has since pleaded not guilty and is on pretrial release.
Watson’s attorney Arnold Spencer said in a statement: ‘Jimmy Watson is a decorated veteran and former Navy Seal. He fought for other people’s rights and liberties, and he is entitled to and looks forward to his day in court to exercise some of those very rights.’