The Arrest of Spanish Citizen Involved in Violation of U.S. Sanctions

The Arrest of Spanish Citizen Involved in Violation of U.S. Sanctions

The recent arrest of Alejandro Cao de Benos, a Spanish citizen, by the Spanish police has brought to light a case of alleged involvement in assisting Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith in violating U.S. sanctions and traveling to North Korea. The incident has sparked international interest and raises questions about the role individuals play in bypassing international sanctions and engaging in illegal activities.

On December 1, it was reported that Spanish authorities apprehended Cao de Benos in Barcelona. It was later discovered that he was traveling under a false identity and intended to take a train to Madrid. The arrest took place at a Madrid train station on November 30. However, Cao de Benos was released without any conditions after appearing before a High Court judge on December 1.

Although Cao de Benos has been released, an extradition process is said to be pending. To proceed with the extradition, the United States must formalize its request and provide appropriate documentation. The accused, however, remains confident that he will not be extradited, claiming that the false accusation against him does not hold any weight in Spain. Through a statement on X:, Cao de Benos expressed gratitude for the support he received and claimed that there is no basis for the extradition.

Cao de Benos is alleged to have played a crucial role in organizing the blockchain conference in North Korea, which Virgil Griffith attended in April 2019. Griffith, a well-known Ethereum developer, was subsequently arrested in November of that year for violating U.S. sanctions. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Cao de Benos and another individual in April 2022, with an FBI poster suggesting that undisclosed charges were already in progress as early as January.

The DOJ claims that Cao de Benos, along with a U.S. businessman named Christopher Emms, conspired to violate and evade U.S. sanctions. They allegedly recruited Griffith and arranged for his travel to North Korea, while also providing information that could assist North Korea in evading sanctions and engaging in illicit activities such as money laundering. Additionally, Cao de Benos is believed to have informed Griffith that his passport would not be stamped, thus concealing his travel to North Korea.

The charges against Cao de Benos and Emms carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions. It is crucial to note that both individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The case highlights the severity of sanctions violations and the collaborative efforts that multinational individuals may undertake to circumvent these measures.

The arrest of Alejandro Cao de Benos has exposed alleged involvement in assisting Virgil Griffith’s violation of U.S. sanctions and travel to North Korea. While the extradition process is yet to be formalized, the case draws attention to the significance of international efforts in combating sanctions violations. It serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by law enforcement agencies in curbing illicit activities in the digital realm.

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