A Spanish man is facing 20 years in prison in the US after he was arrested on suspicion of teaching North Koreans how to evade US sanctions using cryptocurrencies.
Alejandro Cao de Bens was arrested last Friday at a Madrid train station after Interpol alerted Spanish authorities of his possible presence on Spanish soil, the police statement said.
“The investigators found out that he was leaving on a train from Barcelona to Madrid and was identified and detained upon his arrival in Madrid,” the statement said, adding that he might have been using false documentation.
Spain’s National Police didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
US authorities issued an arrest warrant for Cao de Bens in 2022, alleging that he worked with a US citizen to “illegally” provide cryptocurrency and blockchain-technology services to North Korea.
It said Cao de Bens was the founder of the Korean Friendship Association.
According to the Spanish police, Cao de Bens is accused of organizing several conferences on cryptocurrencies and blockchain in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, in 2018, bypassing sanctions imposed by the United States.
He could face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison in the US, the police said.
Virgil Griffiths, the US citizen involved, was sentenced to 63 months in jail and fined $100,000 in 2022 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to violate the Trump-era International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
The Office of Public Affairs noted that at the time of his sentencing that Griffith knew North Korea “could use these services to evade and avoid U.S. sanctions, and to fund its nuclear weapons program and other illicit activities.”
Cao de Bens, for his part, denied the accusations, calling them “totally false.”
“There is not a shred of evidence that I hired or solicited the services of Virgil Griffin,” he said.
North Korea has being accussed of exploiting cryptocurrencies.
North Korean hackers stole $3 billion in cryptocurrency over five years by masquerading as recruiters, IT workers, and government officials.