‘Blockchain Island’ Malta guru wanted by FBI now seeking asylum in Russia

The government’s one-time ‘virtual currency partner’, Christopher Emms, is wanted by the FBI for teaching North Korea blockchain money laundering while operating in Malta


British national Christopher Emms, who once claimed to have spearheaded Malta’s ‘Blockchain Island’ fever in 2018, has found himself on the FBI’s wanted list for teaching the technology to North Korea – he has said he is now seeking political asylum in Russia.

Emms is currently wanted in the US, where he is facing up to 20 years in prison for allegedly teaching North Korean government functionaries at a conference he organised in Pyongyang how to use blockchain to launder money and evade US sanctions – crimes he allegedly perpetrated while he was active during Malta’s Blockchain Island frenzy.

Emms headed Decentralized Ventures, which was “set up to support the Maltese government’s plans to create the world’s first fully regulated market for ICOs, distributed ledger technology and virtual currencies”.

But a year after setting up the ’partnership’ with the Maltese government, Emms was in North Korea making pitches to the dictatorship.

According to the US Department of Justice, “In his own sales pitch, Emms allegedly advised North Korean officials that cryptocurrency technology made it ‘possible to transfer money across any country in the world regardless of what sanctions or any penalties that are put on any country’.”

The pitch was made at the 2019 Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, where alleged violations against US sanctions also led to the controversial arrest and indictment of Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith for similar offences.

At the time of the conference, Emms had already set up shop and operating from Malta, particularly during the 2018-2019 ‘grandfathering period’, when cryptocurrency oversight was lax and had drawn companies such as Binance to Malta for a while.

In that period, such operations were essentially exempt from the need for authorisation or even the need to comply with anti-money laundering laws.

While he was operating in Malta as the CEO of TokenKey, Emms was accused, along with de Benos and Griffith, of “conspiring to violate economic sanctions imposed on North Korea, to teach and advise members of the North Korean government on cutting-edge cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, all for the purpose of evading US sanctions meant to stop North Korea’s hostile nuclear ambitions”.

They also allegedly proposed plans to create specialised ‘smart contracts’ to serve the DPRK’s unique interests. They mapped out cryptocurrency transactions designed to evade and avoid US sanctions, including diagramming such transactions on a whiteboard for the North Korean audience.

“In one question-and-answer session,” the DOJ notes in an indictment filed last April, “Emms described how North Koreans could use over-the-counter cryptocurrency providers in transactions to evade and avoid US sanctions.”

They had even planned to hold a follow-up cryptocurrency conference in the DPRK in 2020, which was called off after Griffith’s arrest in November 2019. Griffiths was sentenced to five years in prison in a high-profile case for giving a presentation at the same conference.

In April 2018, Emms spoke at another cryptocurrency conference in Dubai. He announced Decentralized Ventures, a partnership “set up to support the Maltese government’s plans to create the world’s first fully regulated market for ICOs, distributed ledger technology (DLT) and virtual currencies.”

“Decentralized Ventures aims to play a pivotal role in encouraging more businesses and organisations to take advantage of Malta’s forward-thinking regulatory approach,” the statement added.

“One of the company’s key strategic goals is to support the development of fully decentralized financial markets built on blockchain and other DLT platforms. Its service approach is intended to help new players get off the ground and flourish in Malta’s supportive regulatory environment.”

A year later, Emms was in the DPRK giving instruction “on how the DPRK could use blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to launder money and evade sanctions”.


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Francis Said
Francis Said
17 days ago

Malta has the unique back of attracting the worst of the worst to operate from Malta.

17 days ago

MFSA’s Christopher Buttigieg should be held accountable for the hundreds of thousands spent from taxpayers monies to promote Malta as blockchain Island. The damages this flawed blockchain Island concept caused to the country and to the industry is way too big to calculate in money terms.

17 days ago

This government is a CROOKS MAGNET. They have all precipitated to Malta .
BITCOIN ISLAND . How to launder money without anybody finding out, was part of the private lessons to the local fraudsters.
And we still think we will find out where the €8000 million have gone. EGRANT is the pass-key to the laundry room.

Winston Smith
Winston Smith
17 days ago

Malta, the shadiest place with 365 days of sunshine.

16 days ago

dan wiehed minn dawk l-investaturi Hlief korrotti w hallelin ma gewx , li l-akbar ex. pm korrot li kellha malta, wieghdna qabel l-elezzjoni. Hlief korrotti w hallelin ma gewx malta boex jahslu flushom kif qieghed jaghmel l-akbar pm li kellha malta bit-taparsi konsulenzi.

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