Software company founder John McAfee has surfaced in public for the first time in weeks, saying Tuesday that he plans to ask for asylum in Guatemala because he fears persecution in Belize.
McAfee spoke to The Associated Press in a restaurant near a high-end hotel where he is staying in Guatemala City after sneaking out of neighbouring Belize. Police in Belize have called him a person of interest in the November slaying of a fellow American ex-pat but say there is no warrant for his arrest. Since there are no restrictions on his travels, it's unclear why he would need any special status in order to stay in Guatemala.
McAfee says he is being persecuted by the Belizean government, and he has sensitive information about official corruption in that country. He has hired a well-known Guatemalan lawyer to assist him.
"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."
Belizean police have denied they are persecuting McAfee or are motivated by corruption, saying they have simply been investigating a crime about which McAfee may have information.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has expressed doubts about McAfee's mental state, saying: "I don't want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid, even bonkers."
McAfee told the Associated Press that he will petition the Guatemalan government to allow him to stay. McAfee said he fears he will be killed if he turns himself in for questioning in Belize.
"Belize does not have a good track record of providing safety when they ask to question you," he said. "I felt much more secure crossing the border into a country that had laws that were backed by the justice system."
McAfee is wanted for questioning in connection with the killing of Gregory Viant Faull, who was shot to death in early November on the Belize island where the men lived.
Faull's home was a couple of houses down from the compound where McAfee kept several noisy dogs, armed guards and entertained a steady stream of young women brought in from the mainland. McAfee acknowledges that his dogs were bothersome and that Faull had complained about them, but denied killing Faull. Several of the dogs were poisoned shortly before Faull's killing.
"I am absolutely innocent," McAfee said on Tuesday.