NEW: A lawyer for John McAfee files a formal request for asylum in Guatemala
McAfee is sought for questioning in the killing of his neighbor in Belize
Police say he is not a suspect, but they want to talk to him about the November 11 shooting
He says he fled to Guatemala to escape police persecution, and plans to seek asylum
The story of American tech mogul John McAfee reads like a bestselling mystery: murder, poisoned dogs, young women and international intrigue fueled by weeks on the run.
But in the latest chapter of the saga, the millionaire says his month of evading Belizean authorities is over.
And he plans to settle down in Guatemala, at least for now.
“I have a passport. I am in no trouble with the U.S. I can return any time I like,” he told CNN en Español in Guatemala City on Tuesday evening. “I have been back to America many times since I have been in Belize. I have no interest of going this month or next but … I can come and go freely to America any time I want.”
McAfee has been on the run since authorities said he is wanted for questioning in the death of an American businessman who was his neighbor in the Belize island of Ambergris Caye.
No more disguises
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.
Gone was his latest disguise – as a wrinkly old man with salt and pepper hair. It was replaced by a dark-haired man in a dapper, pin-stripped suit. A woman in her 20s clung to his arm.
Belize authorities have said McAfee is not a suspect. They only want to talk to him about the November 11 shooting of Gregory Faull, 52, who was found dead in his own home.
“I am not concerned because I have not been charged with a crime, so there is no basis for extradition,” McAfee said from Guatemala. “No one has blamed me for the murder. I have not been charged, I am not a suspect. … They merely want to question me.”
McAfee’s lawyer said he left Belize to escape police persecution and planned to file a formal request for asylum with Guatemalan officials Wednesday.
“I like Guatemala. I think the legal system in Guatemala is superior to the legal system in Belize,” McAfee said. ” Guatemala is close, it is beautiful and most importantly, I enjoy the company of Guatemalans.”
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.
It all started on November 9, when he told police someone poisoned his four dogs. To put them out of their misery, he shot each in the head and buried them on his property, according to a former girlfriend.
The dogs’ barking and aggressive behavior was a frequent source of friction between the two neighbors.
Two days after the dogs were poisoned, Faull was found fatally shot in the head.
Fear of wrongful arrest, McAfee said, prompted his mission to evade police. His quest was aided by the women in his life.
He speaks of many more women.
“It’s almost surreal that I had how many – six …” he said, as his latest girlfriend chuckled nearby.
Offering to meet in a ‘neutral country’
McAfee said Belize authorities are out to get him because he refused to pay a bribe to a politician months earlier.
But the authorities said they want him for questioning in the killing.
“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,” said Raphael Martinez, spokesman for the Belize Police Department.
McAfee offered to speak to Belizean police on the phone and meet with the Central American nation’s prime minister “in a neutral country.”
While he apologized for the secrecy surrounding his relocation, he did not provide details about how – or when – he arrived in Guatemala.
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.
Belize won’t seek extradition of McAfee, Martinez said.
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.
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.”
McAfee will hold a news conference Thursday, according to his blog. He is expected to reveal the next move in the international mystery.
Journalist Miguel Salay contributed from Guatemala City, and Faith Karimi from Atlanta