The pro-Pyongyang Korean Friendship Association’s founder, Alejandro Cao de Benos, was detained this week in Madrid after coming by train from Barcelona.
Cao de Benos was captured by Spanish authorities at the Atocha train station when they learned he had been using a fictitious identity.
The United States accuses Cao de Benos of plotting with Virgil Griffith, an American researcher who was convicted, to assist North Korea in avoiding sanctions by utilizing cryptocurrencies.
For the same alleged conspiracy, a U.S. judge sentenced Griffith to more than five years in prison last year. Cao de Benos may serve as a prisoner for as long as 20 years if proven guilty.
Cao de Benos used social media on Friday to dispute the American accusations and label them as “false.” We were unable to obtain a response from his legal team.
Authorities, however, think that the purpose of the crypto scam involving Cao de Benos and Griffith was to avoid sanctions and launder money in order to finance North Korea’s nuclear program. There are claims that in order to assist the dictatorship, North Korean hackers are suspected of stealing hundreds of millions in cryptocurrency in recent years.
On Friday, a Spanish High Court judge freed Cao de Benos, pending his extradition to the United States for prosecution. His detention occurs as international anxiety over North Korea’s nuclear aspirations continues to escalate.