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Attorney: Internet pioneer John McAfee in Guatemala, will seek asylum

By Michael Martinez and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 1:15 AM EST, Thu December 6, 2012
John McAfee's lawyer said the Internet security pioneer went to Guatemala to escape
John McAfee's lawyer said the Internet security pioneer went to Guatemala to escape "persecution" from police in Belize.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A Guatemalan official says there is no register of McAfee entering his country
  • McAfee's attorney says he fled to Guatemala to escape police persecution and will seek asylum
  • Belize police think McAfee is still in that country, a police spokesman says
  • McAfee is being sought by Belize authorities for questioning in the killing of his neighbor

(CNN) -- For weeks, John McAfee hid from authorities, donning a disguise and using disposable cell phones to communicate.

On Tuesday, the 67-year-old Internet security pioneer emerged publicly in Guatemala's capital, hundreds of miles away from the Caribbean island in Belize where his next-door neighbor was found dead.

McAfee's lawyer said he left Belize to escape police persecution and planned to file a formal request for asylum with Guatemalan officials Wednesday.

"He had to come here because it was the closest and the most immediate place to protect his life," attorney Telesforo Guerra told CNN en Español.

McAfee's arrival in Guatemala was the latest twist in an investigation that has drawn international attention and prompted the well known software company founder to go into hiding for weeks.

Belize authorities have said they only want to talk to McAfee about the November 11 shooting death of Gregory Faull, 52, an American businessman who was found dead in his home on the Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye.

McAfee, who is not a suspect in the case, lived next door.

"I had nothing to do with his death," McAfee wrote on his website Tuesday in a message to Faull's family. "I have lost five close family members in my 67 years and I know your suffering."

A Belize police spokesman said authorities there believe McAfee could still be in their country, and they still want to question him in his neighbor's killing.

McAfee, who founded the computer security software company that still bears his name, said in a blog post Tuesday that he would speak to Belizean police on the phone and offered to meet with the Central American nation's prime minister "in a neutral country."

"If I am indeed merely wanted for questioning," he wrote, "this should suffice."

A Guatemalan official said late Tuesday that officials there had not received a request for asylum from McAfee and did not know how he came into the country.

There is no registry of McAfee entering legally at any official border crossing, said Marco Tulio Chicas Sosa, director of international bilateral relations for Guatemala's foreign ministry.

"Everything we know about this case comes from the media," he said.

The Guatemalan official said he could not comment on whether his country would offer asylum to McAfee, since no request had been filed.

Earlier Tuesday, a Belize police spokesman said authorities thought McAfee was still in that country, but declined to say why.

"We're not even sure he's left Belize," said Raphael Martinez, spokesman for the Belize Police Department. "He said a lot of things. The police feel he's still here in Belize.

"It's difficult to pinpoint what he will say next or what he will do next. I still question his frame of mind," Martinez said. "I think the best thing is for him to come in and answer a couple of questions."

Belize won't seek extradition of McAfee, Martinez said.

Authorities aren't unfairly persecuting McAfee, and his attorney "should come to Belize and see what's happening here," Martinez said.

In an exclusive interview with CNN earlier this week, McAfee said he fears authorities in Belize and said he'd been afraid for his life ever since he refused to pay a bribe to a politician months earlier.

Martinez said the interview showed McAfee was trying to use media, especially international outlets, "as pawns in his game for sympathy."

"I think he really wants to make this into a great fiasco," he said.

"He's really gone out of his way to make the country look bad, and we just believe he should, if he's innocent as he's saying he is, he should bring in his lawyer, and let's get to the bottom of this and say what he needs to say and let's move on," Martinez said. "I'm sure he could be somebody who could direct the course of this investigation."

On his website, McAfee said he has hired Guerra "to assist in my fight against the government of Belize" and apologized for the secrecy surrounding his relocation. He did not provide details about how -- or when -- he arrived in Guatemala.

"It was not easy to exit Belize and required many supporters in many countries," he wrote.

He said he planned to meet with Guatemalan officials and hoped to speak to reporters in a news conference Wednesday.

McAfee founded his namesake computer security software in 1987, initially running it out of his home in California. He sold his stake in McAfee Associates in 1994 and moved to Belize in 2008.

The case began to unfold on November 9, when McAfee told police someone had poisoned four of his dogs. To put them out of their misery, he shot each in the head and buried them on his property, a former girlfriend said.

Officials say the dogs' barking and aggressive behavior was a frequent source of friction between McAfee and Faull, a contractor who retired to Belize from Florida and lived next door. McAfee lived in the remote northern part of Ambergris Caye.

Two days later, someone shot Faull in the head in his own living room. A 9 mm shell was found on the second step on the first floor, and Faull was found dead on the second floor.

McAfee told CNN in the interview that he did not kill Faull and did not pay anybody to kill the man.

He said he will not surrender to police for questioning, adding that his priority is to clear his name.

Three people have been detained for questioning in the killing, police have said, and investigators are pursuing multiple leads.

A 2009 story in the New York Times indicated that McAfee's fortune had plunged to $4 million from its $100 million peak, largely because of the real estate and stock market crashes that hit his investments.

In February 2010, he started QuorumEx, which says on its website to be trying to "reinvent the way modern medicine combats and disarms pathogenic bacteria."

Journalist Miguel Sala and CNN's Martin Savidge, Fernando del Rincon, Camilo Egana, Joe Sterling and Jessica King contributed to this report.

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