Two More Indicted Over North Korea Sanctions Evasion Plot

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Two Europeans have been indicted for allegedly conspiring with a cryptocurrency specialist to help North Korea evade US sanctions.

Alejandro Cao De Benos, 47, from Spain, and Christopher Emms, 30, from the UK, are said to have jointly planned and organized the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference (the DPRK Cryptocurrency Conference) that crypto expert Virgil Griffith attended.

Griffith was this month handed a five-year sentence after pleading guilty to helping North Korea evade sanctions. At the conference, he provided detailed instructions on how to launder money using crypto and how blockchain smart contracts could be used by Pyongyang in nuclear weapons negotiations with the US.

Cao De Benos is the founder of pro-North Korean organization, the Korean Friendship Association, while Emms is described by the Department of Justice  (DoJ) as “a cryptocurrency businessman.”

In their presentations at the conference, both are accused of instructing North Korean officials on how to use blockchain and crypto technology to launder money and evade sanctions.

Following the conference, they are said to have continued with the conspiracy and tried to develop crypto infrastructure and equipment inside the hermit nation, as well as brokering introductions for conference attendees with cryptocurrency service providers.

It’s also claimed they planned a second conference in 2020.

“As alleged, Alejandro Cao de Benos and Christopher Emms conspired with Virgil Griffith, a cryptocurrency expert convicted of conspiring to violate economic sanctions imposed on North Korea, to teach and advise members of the North Korean government on cutting-edge cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, all for the purpose of evading US sanctions meant to stop North Korea’s hostile nuclear ambitions,” said US attorney Damian Williams.

“In his own sales pitch, Emms allegedly advised North Korean officials that cryptocurrency technology made it ‘possible to transfer money across any country in the world regardless of what sanctions or any penalties that are put on any country.’ The sanctions imposed against North Korea are critical in protecting the security interests of Americans, and we continue to aggressively enforce them with our law enforcement partners both here and abroad.”

The two remain at large, but both the UK and Spain have extradition treaties with the US. They have both been charged with one count of conspiring to violate and evade US sanctions, which carries a maximum term of 20 years behind bars.

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