[The following piece ran on Gizmodo.com on November 12, 2012]
As dawn broke over the interior of Belize on April 30, an elite team of 42 police and soldiers, including members of the country’s SWAT team and Special Forces, converged on a compound on the banks of a jungle river. Within, all was quiet. The police called out through a bullhorn that they were there looking for illegal firearms and narcotics, then stormed in, breaking open doors with sledgehammers, handcuffing four security guards, and shooting a guard dog dead. The compound’s owner, a 67-year-old white American man, emerged bleary-eyed from his bedroom with a 17-year-old Belizean girl. The police cuffed him and took him away, along with his guards.
Inside, the cops found $20,000 in cash, a lab stocked with chemistry equipment, and a small armory’s worth of firearms: seven pump-action shotguns, one single-action shotgun, two 9-mm. pistols, 270 shotgun cartridges, 30 9-mm. pistol rounds, and twenty .38 rounds. Vexingly for the police, all of this was actually legal. The guns were licensed and the lab appeared not to be manufacturing drugs but an herbal antibacterial compound.
After fourteen hours, the police let the man and his employees go, but remained convinced they had missed something. Why else would a wealthy American playboy hole himself up out here, far from the tourist zone on the coast, by a navigable river that happened to connect, twenty miles downstream, with a remote corner of the Mexican border? Why else would he hire, as head of security, a rogue cop who’d once plotted to steal guns from the police and sell them to drug traffickers?
It’s not too unusual for eccentric gringos to wind up in Central America and slowly turn stranger—”Rich white men who come to Belize and act strangely are kind of a type,” one local journalist told me. But this one’s story is more peculiar than most. John McAfee is a founding father of the anti-virus software industry, an inveterate self-promoter who built an improbable web security empire on the principles of trust and reliability, then poured his start-up fortune into a series of sprawling commune-like retreats, presenting himself in the public eye as a paragon of engaged, passionate living: “Success, for me,” he has said, “is being able to wake up in the morning and feel like a 12 year old.” But down in Belize, McAfee the enlightened Peter Pan seems to have refashioned himself into a kind of final-reel Scarface. Continue reading Secrets, Schemes, and Lots of Guns: Inside John McAfee’s Heart of Darkness