Two EU citizens have been charged with violating US sanctions on North Korea when they jointly planned to hold a crypto conference there.
A US district court has indicted two European citizens in connection with a blockchain and cryptocurrency conference in North Korea that violated US sanctions back in 2019.
According to the US Department of Justice, court documents allege that Alejandro Cao De Benos, a Spanish national, and Christopher Emms, a UK national, conspired to violate US sanctions on North Korea when they co-authored the terrorist attack of 2019 planned and orchestrated . . Blockchain and cryptocurrency conference in Pyongyang.
The pair reportedly worked with former Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith to provide guidance on how the DPRK could use blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to launder money and circumvent sanctions. The three later provided additional cryptocurrency and blockchain services to the sanctioned nation to help them build cryptocurrency infrastructure and hardware.
Griffith is known in the cryptocurrency space for his extensive work on the Ethereum cryptocurrency platform in its early years. He was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in November 2019 for his connection to the conference and last September pleaded guilty to violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
On April 12, he was sentenced to 63 months in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The indictment also alleges that Cao De Benos and Emms recruited Griffith to speak at a conference on North Korea and arranged for him to travel to North Korea for the purpose in 2019. It is also alleged that Cao De Benos coordinated Griffith’s attendance at the conference with the DPRK government.
The couple have been charged with conspiracy to violate US sanctions in violation of the IEEPA, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
In an accompanying statement from the US Department of Justice, the FBI has issued a stern warning to any person or company considering circumventing US sanctions against a foreign government.
Bradley S. Benavidez, Acting Assistant Director of Counterintelligence for the FBI, said:
“Those planning to circumvent U.S. sanctions against a foreign government should be aware that the FBI and its partners will be actively investigating these cases.”
The indictment comes at an interesting time after the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) recently announced that it will prosecute companies and individuals involved in attempts made by the United States and its international partners to evade sanctions imposed on Russia.
See Also: US Treasury Lists Crypto Miners in Latest Russia Sanctions
Last week, the US Treasury Department announced that it had named Russian crypto-mining service provider BitRiver AG and several subsidiaries as companies facilitating sanctions evasion.
“The United States is committed to ensuring that no asset, however complex, becomes a mechanism for the Putin regime to offset the effects of sanctions.”
On Friday, OFAC announced that it has sanctioned three Ethereum addresses allegedly linked to North Korea’s theft of more than $600 million worth of cryptocurrency from Axie Infinity’s non-fungible Ronin token (NFT) in March stand.