Christopher Emms has refuted claims that law enforcement agents have arrested him in Russia in connection with his alleged role in advising the North Korean government.
The British national was reportedly arrested at a hotel by the Russian Bureau of Interpol in Moscow and would be extradited to the United States. A local news outlet released a report stating that Interpol previously issued a ‘red notice’ for Emms’ arrest to face charges related to sanctions violations. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also placed him on their wanted list.
“I continue to remain grateful to The Russian Federation for granting me the right of stay in the country where I am in the process of seeking political asylum,” Emms told a crypto media outlet. “I continue to refute all allegations against me by the U.S. authorities.”
The U.S. suspected Emms of organizing the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference in 2018, in which law enforcement claims he provided the technical expertise for North Korea to use digital currencies to circumvent sanctions. Emms allegedly conducted the conference with Alejandro Cao de Benos, a Spanish national currently wanted by U.S. authorities, and Virgil Griffith, an ex-Ethereum developer.
Griffith was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison for his role in organizing the conference, while Emms stares at the possibility of up to 20 years if extradited to the U.S.
“Emms and the expert proposed plans to create specialized ‘smart contracts‘ to serve the DPRK’s unique interests and mapped out cryptocurrency transactions designed to evade and avoid United States sanctions,” read the FBI’s caution.
Emms was arrested by Saudi Arabian police but released after they satisfied themselves that he had not violated any local laws. Emms fled to Russia upon his release, banking on the faith that the Russians would not extradite him to the United States.
Several thought leaders have argued in favor of Emms on the grounds that the 31-year-old has not infringed on any laws bordering on national security. Radha Stirling, the founder of Due Process International, commented that all the information Emms provided to North Korea currently “appears on the first page of Google.”
North Korea wreaks havoc on the virtual currency ecosystem
Since Emms organized his conference, North Korea has been the biggest villain in the cryptocurrency space. Over $600 million worth of digital currencies has been stolen by state-sponsored hacking gangs, with the bulk of the funds channeled to developing nuclear weapons.
Lazarus Group, one of North Korea’s prolific hacking groups, stole $615 million in one swoop from Axie Infinity, the largest digital currency loot to date. Norwegian authorities have since recovered a portion of the loot as security outfits try to stifle the activities of the hacking gangs.
Watch: Cybersecurity and a Safer World with Blockchain
New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.