A British national wanted by Interpol under the Red Notice for consulting North Korea on cryptocurrency has been detained in Moscow. U.S. authorities allege that the man helped the regime in Pyongyang use digital assets to evade sanctions.
A British national sought by the U.S. for violating North Korean sanctions has been arrested at a Moscow hostel
As revealedby Russian telegram channel Baza, Interpol’s Russian bureau arrested a British national wanted by Interpol at the request of the United States. U.S. officials allege that he was aiding North Korea in its efforts to circumvent sanctions by using cryptography.
31-year-old Christopher Ames, who is accused of fraud against the U.S. government, was detained at the hostel where he was staying. The International Criminal Police Organization issued a “red notice” arrest warrant against him in early February. Details of thatannouncementare as follows.
Christopher Douglas Emms is wanted on suspicion of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
More specifically, he conspired to violate U.S. sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) by illegally providing cryptocurrency and blockchain technology services to the DPRK in cooperation with American citizens.
In early 2018, crypto businessman Ems organized and hosted the “Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference,” the agency explained. He also recruited cryptocurrency experts from the United States and arranged their travel to the country in April 2019 for the event.
Both men answered questions about blockchain and cryptography from a North Korean audience, including those working for the government in Pyongyang. They also proposed plans to create smart contracts for North Korea and mapped out crypto transactions designed to circumvent U.S. sanctions.
Despite the Emms taking steps to conceal their activities, the American crypto experts were arrested in November 2019 and this plan was suspended. The Britons and their co-conspirator Alejandro Cao de Venos, a Spanish political activist with close ties to North Korea, did not obtain permission from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to provide services to North Korea, as required by U.S. law.
A federal arrest warrant was issued for Christopher Ames on January 27, 2022 in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, after the British national was charged with conspiracy to violate IEEPA.
Interpol also stated that Ems is known to reside in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and was in Saudi Arabia in or about March 2022. He also had various business interests in several jurisdictions, including the UAE, Malta, Gibraltar, and throughout Europe. Baza noted that he apparently decided to wait out the turbulent times in Russia, where he is currently under arrest.
North Korea is believed to have stolen record amounts of cryptocurrency last year, according to a draft UN report. Estimates cited by the authors, who are independent sanctions monitors, put the total amount of virtual assets obtained by North Korea-linked hackers in 2022 at more than $1 billion, larger than in any previous year.
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