US computer anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee escaped immediate deportation to Belize on Wednesday as Guatemala expelled the colorful American back to the United States instead.
Wearing a blue suit and white shirt, McAfee, who is wanted in next-door Belize for questioning over his neighbor’s murder, got out of a police vehicle and walked freely to the waiting area to catch a Miami-bound flight.
McAfee and 20-year-old girlfriend Samantha Vanegas spent more than three weeks on the run in Belize after his neighbor’s November 11 murder before crossing illegally into Guatemala, where he was arrested on December 5.
His high-profile lawyer, former Guatemalan attorney general Telesforo Guerra, successfully fought his deportation back to Belize after he failed to win political asylum in Guatemala.
“Under national migration laws, Mr McAfee has been expelled to the United States,” said Guatemalan immigration spokesman Fernando Lucero.
An AFP photographer witnessed McAfee, 67, being taken from his detention center in Guatemala City to the airport by police convoy.
“I am being forcibly separated from Sam,” McAfee posted on his blog shortly before take-off, indicating that his girlfriend and another female friend, Amy, would join him later in Miami.
Guatemalan officials, who said McAfee had been expelled back to his country of origin because he was in the country illegally, confirmed shortly after the posting that the plane had taken off.
It was not immediately clear if McAfee would still face possible deportation to Belize once back in the United States.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said only that the United States was looking into reports that McAfee had been ordered released by a judge.
Guerra told reporters that McAfee had chosen to leave the country for personal safety reasons. “He prefers to be in the United States where he will be safer than here or in Belize,” the lawyer said.
The 67-year-old McAfee denies murdering his neighbor and says he went on the run because he feared for his life if apprehended in Belize.
Authorities in Belize want to question him about the death of 52-year-old Florida expatriate Gregory Faull, who was found by his housekeeper with a 9-mm bullet in his head, lying in a pool of his own blood.
Prior to his murder, Faull had orchestrated a letter of complaint to the local mayor, urging the authorities to take action because McAfee’s “vicious” dogs and aggressive security guards were scaring tourists and residents.
McAfee shot dead four of his dogs before fleeing, claiming they had been poisoned by Faull.
Police in Belize said weeks ago that ballistics experts were seeking a match between bullets founds in the dog carcasses and one found in the murder victim, but no results have been announced.
McAfee has not been directly accused of Faull’s murder, but police have said he is wanted for questioning as a “person of interest” in the case.
Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow has shrugged of McAfee’s claims of official intrigue in his country, saying the American is “extremely paranoid.”
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 cashing 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.
McAfee was briefly incarcerated in April after police found him living with a 17-year-old girl and discovered an arsenal of seven pump-action shotguns, one single-action shotgun, and two 9-mm pistols.