(Reuters) – The US Department of Justice on Monday announced the indictment of two Europeans for allegedly conspiring with a recently convicted US cryptocurrency researcher to help North Korea avoid US sanctions.
Alejandro Cao de Benos of Spain, who founded a pro-Pyongyang affinity organization, and Christopher Emms of the United Kingdom, a cryptocurrency businessman, were accused of recruiting researcher Virgil Griffith to illegally provide cryptocurrency and blockchain technology services to North Korea.
Both defendants are at large. Lawyers for both could not be immediately identified.
Prosecutors said Mr. Cao de Benos and Mr. Emms arranged for Mr. Griffith, who has a PhD from the California Institute of Technology, travels to North Korea via China in April 2019 to attend their Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference.
At the conference, Emms and Griffith will have taught members of the North Korean government and other participants about using cutting-edge technology for blockchains and cryptocurrencies to avoid sanctions and launder money.
Such instructions were “all aimed at avoiding US sanctions aimed at halting North Korea’s hostile nuclear ambitions” and protecting US security interests, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement in Manhattan.
The indictment quoted from emails in which Cao de Benos is alleged to have admonished Griffith in June 2019 after learning that Griffith had discussed his trip with the US Embassy.
“They can fine or even imprison you! That’s why we never told anyone or made it public [attendees]”, Wrote Mr. Cao de Benos.
Mr. Cao de Benos and Mr. Emms each risk up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Mr. Griffith was sentenced April 12 to 5-1 / 4 years in prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge.