Spanish aristocrat gets detained on US warrant


(MENAFN) In a significant development, a Spanish aristocrat, Alejandro Cao de Benos, has been arrested in Madrid on an American arrest warrant for his alleged involvement in assisting North Korea in using cryptocurrency to bypass United States sanctions. Cao de Benos, a descendant of Spanish nobility, faces the prospect of up to 20 years in a United States prison if convicted. The arrest was made by Spanish authorities upon his arrival at a train station in Madrid, though formal extradition proceedings are yet to commence.

The investigation into Cao de Benos began in mid-October, prompted by Interpol agents' indications that he might be hiding in Spain, as stated by the Spanish National Police. The authorities successfully tracked the fugitive to Catalonia before effecting his arrest in the capital. Notably, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had listed Cao de Benos on its "most wanted" list for over a year.

According to United States prosecutors, Cao de Benos, along with British national Christopher Emms, and American cryptocurrency expert Virgil Griffith, conspired to illicitly provide cryptocurrency and blockchain services to North Korea, thereby violating United States sanctions. Emms, who remains a fugitive, and Griffith, sentenced to 63 months in prison last year with a USD100,000 fine after pleading guilty, were part of a group called the Friendship Association With North Korea, founded by Cao de Benos in 2000. This group organized cryptocurrency and blockchain conferences in Pyongyang in 2018.

The conferences allegedly played a pivotal role in instructing North Korean audiences, including government officials, on how cryptocurrency and blockchain technology could be leveraged to launder money and evade United States sanctions. Emms purportedly conveyed to attendees that such technology enabled the seamless transfer of money worldwide, irrespective of sanctions or penalties imposed on any country.

As the legal proceedings unfold, the arrest of Alejandro Cao de Benos sheds light on the intricate web of illicit financial activities involving cryptocurrency and its potential role in circumventing international sanctions. The case also underscores the collaborative efforts of international law enforcement agencies in pursuing individuals involved in facilitating financial schemes for nations under sanctions.

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