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- Spanish Aristocrat Entangled in Elaborate North Korean Crypto Scheme
Spanish Aristocrat Entangled in Elaborate North Korean Crypto Scheme
Spanish Police Release Details
Alejandro Cao de Benós, a Spanish man from an aristocratic family who gained notoriety as one of North Korea's most vocal supporters in the Western world, has been arrested in Spain, authorities announced.
De Benós, the founder of the Korean Friendship Association, was apprehended last week at a train station in Madrid, according to a statement by the Policia Nacional. He has been described as a "fugitive" and is suspected of using false documents.
The arrest stems from fraud allegations in the United States, where the Department of Justice initially charged De Benós in April 2022 for his involvement in organizing multiple cryptocurrency conferences in Pyongyang.
Christopher Emms, a British national who was also charged in the U.S. alongside De Benós, has since fled to Russia after initially promising to return to the United Kingdom when he was detained in Saudi Arabia.
The charges against both men revolve around an alleged conspiracy with American citizen Virgil Griffith to violate U.S. sanctions on Pyongyang, which were imposed due to the country's nuclear weapons tests. It is claimed that they hosted a cryptocurrency conference in 2019 during which they explained how blockchain technologies could be used to bypass banking embargoes.
According to the indictment filed by the Department of Justice, Western participants at the conference provided guidance on how North Korea "could use blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to launder money and evade sanctions." The three individuals allegedly sought to establish cryptocurrency infrastructure and equipment within North Korea.
In a social media post, Cao de Benós, who claimed to have been released on bail, vehemently denied the allegations of fraud and criticized U.S. authorities for fabricating the charges to facilitate his extradition, as Spain does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.
The arrest of Cao de Benós and the ongoing investigation into the cryptocurrency conference highlight the complexities surrounding international sanctions and the potential use of blockchain technology to evade them. The case also underscores the global reach and influence of individuals involved in the cryptocurrency industry.
Authorities in both Spain and the United States are expected to continue their respective investigations into the alleged fraud and violations of sanctions. The arrest serves as a reminder that individuals involved in cryptocurrency must navigate a complex legal landscape, particularly when operating in jurisdictions subject to international sanctions.
It remains to be seen how the legal proceedings will unfold and what implications they may have for future efforts to enforce sanctions and regulate the use of cryptocurrency on a global scale.