Software guru John McAfee, fighting deportation to Belize, was rushed to a hospital in Guatemala on Thursday shortly after his asylum request was rejected, but a suspected heart attack turned out to be stress in a fresh twist to the saga.
The 67-year-old U.S. computer software pioneer was taken swiftly from a hospital in a police car out of the sight of media, after earlier arriving in an ambulance lying on a stretcher.
His lawyer said he was being taken back to an immigration department cottage where he has been detained since crossing illegally into Guatemala from neighbouring Belize, where police want to question him in connection with his neighbour’s murder.
“He never had a heart attack, nothing like that,” said Telesforo Guerra, a former attorney-general who had earlier said Mr. McAfee had two mild heart attacks.
“I’m not a doctor. I’m just telling you what the doctors told me,” he added. “He was suffering from stress, hypertension and tachycardia [an abnormally fast heartbeat].”
Mr. McAfee was detained by Guatemalan police on Wednesday for illegally sneaking across the border with his 20-year-old girlfriend to escape authorities in Belize. He has said he fears authorities in Belize will kill him if he returns.
Guatemalan Foreign Minister Harold Caballeros said Mr. McAfee’s request for asylum was rejected.
Police in Belize want to quiz Mr. McAfee as “a person of interest” in the killing of fellow American Gregory Faull, with whom he had quarrelled. But they say he is not a prime suspect in the probe. Mr. McAfee says he has been persecuted by Belize’s ruling party because he refused to pay it around $2-million.
Belize’s Prime Minister denies this and has described Mr. McAfee, who made millions from the Internet anti-virus software that bears his name, as “bonkers.” Mr. McAfee later lost much of his fortune and turned to a life of semi-reclusion by the beach.
Guatemalan government spokesman Francisco Cuevas said on Wednesday the eccentric tech entrepreneur, who loves guns and young women and has tribal tattoos covering his shoulders, would be expelled to Belize within hours. However, an immigration department official later said immediate deportation had been ruled out.
The U.S. State Department said it was aware of Mr. McAfee’s arrest and its embassy was providing “appropriate consular services,” but said it could not comment further.
On the Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye, where Mr. McAfee has lived in Belize for about four years, residents and neighbours say he is eccentric and at times unstable. He was seen to travel with armed bodyguards, sporting a pistol tucked into his belt.
The predicament of the former Lockheed systems consultant is a far cry from his heyday in the late 1980s, when he started McAfee Associates. Mr. McAfee has no relationship now with the company, which was sold to Intel Corp.
Mr. McAfee was previously charged in Belize with possession of illegal firearms, and police had raided his property on suspicions that he was running a lab to produce illegal synthetic narcotics. He says he has not taken drugs since 1983.
“[Before then] I took drugs constantly, 24 hours of the day. I took them for years and years. I was the worst drug abuser on the planet,” he told Reuters before his arrest. “Then I finally went to Alcoholics Anonymous, and that was the end of it.”