U.S. fails in bid to extradite Brit for helping North Korea evade sanctions with cryptocurrency

The United States has failed in a bid to extradite a British citizen who it accused of helping North Korea evade sanctions through cryptocurrency.

Christopher Emms, who sought to fight his case in the United Kingdom, had been detained in Saudi Arabia since February, at first in prison and then on bail, after the FBI issued an Interpol Red Notice for his arrest.

Emms has since fled to Russia, claiming: “The U.K. would have put a nice little ribbon on me and shipped me to a U.S. jail for 20 years.”

“This is my home for the foreseeable future,” Emms said of Russia, adding that “I don’t work for the FSB [Russia’s Federal Security Service], I don’t have any ties to the Russian government. They offered me residency and that is that.”

Emms had been accused of conspiring with Virgil Griffith, an American, to break U.S. sanctions on Pyongyang imposed over its nuclear weapons tests, by hosting a cryptocurrency conference in 2019 during which they allegedly explained how blockchain technologies could be used to evade banking embargoes. 

Emms denies the charges.

In a statement on LinkedIn, his representative Radha Stirling — the chief executive of Due Process International — said Emms had been released from his travel ban thanks to her own work “and the continuous support of the British government.”.

Emms’ parliamentary representative, Crispin Blunt MP, had previously criticized the Foreign Office for “washing its hands” of his constituent.

“We are relieved that the Saudi authorities ultimately rejected the American extradition request, which has no sound legal basis; and we deeply appreciate British intervention in this case, and the cooperation established with the Saudis,” Stirling said.

Explaining her client’s move to Moscow, Stirling said: “Although he would seek to defend an extradition on the basis of a lack of dual criminality and would likely win, it is clear that the U.K. is impotent against U.S. pressure with looming trade deals in negotiation.”

The Record asked Stirling whether she was aware that British Prime Minister Liz Truss has said any trade deal between the United Kingdom and the U.S. is unlikely in the “short to medium term.”

She rephrased: “The U.K. has been seeking more mutual cooperation from the United States over the past few years including lightening regulations to allow for U.S. imports.”

Emms said he didn’t “in the slightest” regret seeking refuge in Russia while it waged war against Ukraine.

Emms then directed The Record to speak to Stirling with any further enquiries. She said: “There will be no entertainment of any extradition requests in Russia. It gives us time to remove the Interpol Red Notice and to fight the DOJ head on from relative safety for him. He has just endured eight months in Saudi and has lost hundreds of thousands to legal fees. Being somewhere 100% safe [while] he fights this was his priority.”

Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin is the UK Editor for The Record. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.

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