Spanish police have arrested a c who helped Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith violate U.S. sanctions and travel to North Korea, Reuters reported on Dec. 1.
Local authorities reportedly discovered that Alejandro Cao de Benos was in Barcelona under a false identity and intended to travel by train to Madrid. Police arrested Cao de Benos at a Madrid train station on Nov. 30.
Cao de Benos was released without conditions after appearing before a High Court judge on Dec. 1. Reportedly, an extradition process is pending, though the U.S. must formalize its extradition request and provide documentation.
The accused insisted that he would not be extradited, writing on X:
“There is no extradition. The US accusation, in addition to being false, does not exist in Spain … My thanks to all your messages and to the [Spanish police] for their good treatment and personal support.”
Cao de Benos noted that a particular order was given under former U.S. President Donald Trump. Though the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Cao de Benos and another individual in April 2022 after Trump’s presidency ended, an FBI poster suggests that charges were underway as early as January.
Accused organized conference and arranged travel
Virgil Griffith traveled to North Korea to participate in a crypto and blockchain conference in April 2019. He was arrested that November. In addition to violating sanctions, U.S. authorities said that Griffith provided information that could help North Korea evade sanctions and engage in money laundering. Griffith was convicted in 2021 and sentenced in 2022; he is currently in prison.
The DOJ alleges that Cao de Benos, through his own Korean Friendship Association and in cooperation with a U.S. businessman named Christopher Emms, helped organize the blockchain conference that Griffith attended.
Furthermore, Cao de Benos and Emms allegedly recruited Griffith and arranged for him to travel to the country. The DOJ also states that Cao de Benos told Griffith that North Korea would not stamp his passport, thereby concealing Griffith’s travel. After the conference concluded, Cao de Benos and Emms supposedly worked with Griffith on other North Korea-related blockchain efforts.
Cao De Benos and Emms have each been charged with one count of conspiring to violate and evade U.S. Sanctions for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Both are presumed innocent until found guilty.