British National Detained in Moscow for Aiding North Korea in Crypto Sanction Evasion

• British citizen Christopher Emms has been arrested in Moscow and is wanted by the FBI for allegedly helping North Korea to evade U.S. sanctions via cryptocurrencies.
• Christopher Emms and Spanish national Alejandro Cao De Benos planned and organized the 2019 Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, providing instructions on how to use blockchain and cryptocurrency to launder money.
• Virgil Griffith, a former Ethereum developer, was also involved in the scheme and pleaded guilty to the FBI’s charges of sanctions-related violations at a hearing in 2021.

British Citizen Arrested for Aiding North Korea

Russian authorities have detained British national Christopher Emms, who is wanted by the FBI for allegedly assisting the North Korean government with crypto-related financial sanctions evasion. Interpol issued a red notice against him as he consulted North Korea on cryptocurrencies last April.

Pyongyang Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Conference

Emms and Spanish national Alejandro Cao De Benos are said to have organized the 2019 Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference where they answered questions from attendees regarding blockchain technology and crypto transactions designed to avoid US sanctions.

Virgil Griffith Involvement

Former Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith was also implicated in this scheme but managed to escape extradition due to his residence status in Russia after being detained in Saudi Arabia for eight months. He was later arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in November 2019, pled guilty at a hearing in 2021, and sentenced to 63 months’ imprisonment.

North Korea Use Stolen Crypto Funds for Missile Program

The Trump administration has noted that North Korean hackers have stolen over $1 billion worth of cryptocurrency funds which were likely used towards funding its missile program or nuclear weapon development efforts. This incident serves as further evidence of why governments must take extra caution when it comes to dealing with digital assets or technologies related thereto such as blockchain technology or smart contracts involving any sanction-evading activities.


Christopher Emms’ arrest serves as an example of how serious governments are taking cryptocurrency-related financial sanctions evasion activities, even if those activities were simply consulting ones rather than direct involvement with illicit activity like money laundering or terrorist financing using digital assets such as Bitcoin or Ethereum tokens.