US indicts Europeans over alleged crypto conspiracy in North Korea

(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Monday announced the indictment of two Europeans for allegedly conspiring with a recently convicted U.S. cryptocurrency researcher to help North Korea evade U.S. sanctions.

Alejandro Cao de Benos from Spain, who founded a pro-Pyongyang affinity organization, and Christopher Emms from Britain, a cryptocurrency businessman, have been accused of recruiting researcher Virgil Griffith to illegally providing cryptocurrency and blockchain technology services to North Korea.

The two defendants are on the run. Lawyers for both could not immediately be identified.

Prosecutors said Mr. Cao de Benos and Mr. Emms arranged for Mr. Griffith, who holds a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, to travel to North Korea via China in April 2019 to attend their Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency conference.

At the conference, Mr. Emms and Mr. Griffith reportedly taught members of the North Korean government and other attendees how to use advanced blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to evade sanctions and launder money. ‘money.

The instructions were “all for the purpose of evading US sanctions designed to halt North Korea’s hostile nuclear ambitions” and to protect US security interests, US attorney Damian Williams said in Manhattan in a communicated.

The indictment cited emails in which Mr. Cao de Benos allegedly reprimanded Mr. Griffith in June 2019 after learning that Mr. Griffith had discussed his trip with the US Embassy.

“They could fine you or even imprison you! That’s why we never told anyone or made public the [attendees]wrote Mr. Cao de Benos.

Mr. Cao de Benos and Mr. Emms each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Mr Griffith was sentenced on April 12 to 5 and a quarter years in prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge.