McAfee tells extradition hearing he faces politically-motivated charges

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MADRID, June 15 (Reuters) - John McAfee, an antivirus software creator jailed in Spain and awaiting extradition to face tax fraud charges in the United States, told a court hearing in Madrid on Tuesday he was a victim of politically-motivated accusations.

McAfee linked the charges filed by the Internal Revenue Service to his failed bid to run as a Libertarian Party candidate in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, a second such attempt.

"In late 2018, I announced I would run again and I also announced I would target the IRS and its corruption and two months later the IRS filed charged against me," he told the Spanish High Court during the first hearing of his extradition trial.

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"I believe the charges are politically motivated."

McAfee added that that given his age, almost 76, he would spend the rest of his life in jail if he were to be convicted in the United States.

"I am hoping that the Spanish court will see the injustice of this," he said, adding "the United States wants to use me as an example."

In Washington, the IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Spanish prosecutor, Carlos Bautista, dismissed the claim of political motivations, insisting the Libertarian Party rarely gains more than 1% of votes in U.S. elections.

"He is a tax rebel, nothing else. A millionaire who doesn't want to pay taxes," Bautista said. "He will benefit from all guarantees of due process."

McAfee was arrested at Barcelona airport in early October when he was about to board a flight to Istanbul with a British passport. U.S. federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment in October against McAfee over charges that he evaded taxes and wilfully failed to file returns.

That came shortly after the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed it had brought civil charges against McAfee, alleging he made over $23.1 million in undisclosed income from false and misleading cryptocurrency recommendations.

The Spanish prosecutor said McAfee could be extradited, but only to face charges related to his tax returns of 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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Reporting by Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo, additional reporting by Nandita Bose, Editing by William Maclean

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