John McAfee, founder of an anti-virus software company, has crossed into Guatemala after evading police in neighbouring Belize in connection with a murder probe.
The 67-year-old software guru said on Tuesday that he planned to ask for asylum in Guatemala because he feared persecution in Belize.
“I need a safe place where I can actually speak out,” McAfee said. “Now that I’m here I can speak freely. I can speak openly.”
McAfee has been in hiding for three weeks since police in Belize said they wanted to question him as “a person of interest” after the murder of fellow American Gregory Faull, with whom McAfee had quarreled.
He smuggled himself and his girlfriend, Samantha, across the porous land border between Belize and Guatemala on Monday.
“I have no plans much for the future now. The reason I chose Guatemala is two-fold,” McAfee told Reuters by telephone from Guatemala’s Supreme Court.
“It is a country bordering Belize, it is a country that understands the corruption within Belize and most importantly, the former attorney general of the country is Samantha’s uncle and I knew that he would assist us with legal proceedings.”
McAfee has denied involvement in the murder. While on the run, he posted regularly on his blog to describe how he constantly changed disguises to elude capture.
Telesforo Guerra, McAfee’s lawyer, said the asylum request would be formally presented on Wednesday.
“He will go back to Belize once his situation here in Guatemala is made legal,” Guerra told Reuters, citing the fact that he had crossed into Guatemala illegally to avoid capture by police in Belize.
“He can go to the United States, there is no problem with that. We have asked the US embassy for support with our [asylum] request.”
McAfee says he believes authorities in Belize would kill him if he turned himself in for questioning.
Dean Barrow, Belize’s prime minister, has rejected the claim, calling McAfee paranoid and “bonkers”.
Residents of the Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye, where McAfee has lived for about four years, said he was eccentric, impulsive, erratic and at times unstable, with a penchant for guns and young women.
The 67-year-old started computer software firm in California that bears his name, and made millions of dollars developing the internet anti-virus software.
There was already a case against McAfee in Belize for possession of illegal firearms, and police had previously raided his property on suspicion he was running a lab to make illegal synthetic narcotics.
McAfee says he has been persecuted for refusing to donate money to politicians, that he loves Belize and considers it his home.
The US embassy in Guatemala City said in a statement McAfee would have to work within the country’s legal framework, but declined to comment further.