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Spanish Founder Faces Extradition Over Crypto Scheme for North Korea

Spanish police announced the arrest of Alejandro Cao de Benos, accused of conspiring to help North Korea evade US sanctions using cryptocurrency.

The founder of a pro-Pyongyang organisation, Cao de Benos, was apprehended at Madrid’s Atocha train station upon arrival from Barcelona, facing potential extradition to the US and a 20-year jail term.

Arrest of Alejandro Cao de Benos

Cao de Benos, a 48-year-old Spaniard and descendant of Spanish aristocrats, appeared before a High Court judge who released him without conditions while the extradition process runs its course.

In a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, he thanked the police for their “good treatment and personal support” and asserted:

US federal prosecutors charged Cao de Benos and a British businessman, Christopher Emms, for their alleged involvement in conspiring to violate and evade US sanctions.

“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 U.S. sanctions meant to stop North Korea’s hostile nuclear ambitions.”

The charges revolve around their arrangements for American expert Virgil Griffith to attend the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference in North Korea in April 2019.

At the event, Griffith reportedly taught members of the secretive nation’s government how to use cutting-edge blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to launder money and circumvent sanctions.

Griffith, holding a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, was sentenced in April 2022 to 63 months in jail and fined $100,000 after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge.

Emms, described as still at large on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, remains a key figure in the alleged scheme.

The United States strictly prohibits the export of goods, services, or technology to North Korea without special permission from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Cao de Benos’ North Korea Ties

Cao de Benos, known for founding the Korean Friendship Association in 2000, claims official recognition by Pyongyang and boasts over 10,000 members worldwide on its website.

Apart from coordinating visits by foreign journalists to North Korea, Cao de Benos has acted as a middleman between the reclusive communist regime and foreign investors.

In 2016, he expanded his ventures by opening a small North Korean-themed bar, the Pyongyang Cafe, in his hometown of Tarragona on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

* Original content written by Coinlive. Coinbold is licensed to distribute this content by Coinlive.