With the death of the eccentric British-American computer programmer and cryptocurrency proponent, John McAfee, the U.S. government could find it difficult to confiscate funds belonging to the tech entrepreneur.
Absence of Death Certificate Stalling Further Process
As previously reported by CryptoPotato, McAfee was found dead after committing suicide in a prison in Barcelona, Spain. McAfee’s death happened a few hours after the Spanish authorities authorized the entrepreneur’s extradition to the U.S.
Meanwhile, almost a week after that, it seems that the U.S. government will have a hard time seizing the tech entrepreneur’s property or assets. According to a Bloomberg report, legal experts say that the recovery process could take a long time.
The likely way for authorities to recover any assets would need to be through suing his estate. This process is called “civil forfeiture,” with a partner at a Miami-based law firm, Kobre, and Kim, and former prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s office, in the Southern District of Florida, Evelyn Baltodano-Sheehan, stating that civil forfeiture is rare outside of the U.S.
Describing the process of civil forfeiture, Baltodano-Sheehan,
“For the most part, in a civil forfeiture case, the government would have to prove the same thing they have to in a criminal case, that someone committed an offence, that the property in question was either derived from or used to commit that offence. A person contesting the forfeiture has the right to force the government to prove his case to a jury. There’s a lot of due process.”
The lawyer also stated that civil forfeiture could be useful for recovering crypto funds, adding that the U.S. government is already collaborating with private partners to trace the bitcoins.
Meanwhile, legal experts say that McAfee’s case cannot move forward until there is a death certificate from the Spanish authorities. According to the latter, an official autopsy could take several weeks to be released.
McAfee’s Widow Refutes Suicide Reports
The tech entrepreneur was facing tax evasion charges amounting to over $4.2 million and unlawful promotion of initial coin offerings from the U.S. government and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) respectively.
The U.S. authorities also alleged that McAfee hid his funds in bank and crypto accounts registered in other people’s names as a way to evade tax.
A forensic accountant at the Hong Kong-based Perun Consultants, Gwynn Hopkins, opined that McAfee’s complex money trail could take years for lawyers to solve. Furthermore, Hopkins noted that it is unusual for countries to collect taxes for other nations unless there is a treaty.
McAfee’s death, however, means that authorities would drop all legal charges against the entrepreneur, as stated by Nick Oberheiden, a federal defence attorney. However, the U.S. government could still pursue recovery efforts.
While the U.S. government is looking to seize McAfee’s assets, the late programmer’s family and his legal team seem to be working up a strong defence. This could mean an expensive and long legal battle for the U.S. authorities, with the possibility of little or nothing left to seize afterwards.
On the other hand, McAfee’s widow, Janice McAfee, claimed that her husband could not have possibly killed himself, demanding a thorough investigation into the matter. Interestingly, some members of the cryptocurrency community share Janice’s sentiment, with others coming up with conspiracy theories.