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An Interpol Red Notice, sometimes known as an international arrest warrant, is a notice distributed to police forces worldwide by Interpol. It is an instruction to detain an individual wanted by another country for alleged crimes on their territory. The Interpol Red Notice is a common way to detain those wanted for crimes outside the jurisdiction they’re currently in. International travel can be dangerous for anyone on the interpol wanted list, known as the red notice list.

Don’t Attempt to Cross International Borders with an Outstanding Interpol Red Notice

The most dangerous time for anybody with an Interpol Red Notice outstanding against them is when they attempt to cross an international border. That’s what happened to Christopher Emms. The British citizen was surprised to be detained as he checked in for an early morning flight in Saudi Arabia. He was returning to his home in Dubai.

Mr Emms was placed in a grim detention facility at Riyadh airport with his wrists and ankles in shackles. Emms later discovered that he was wanted by the US for conspiracy to violate something called the International Emergency Economic Powers  Act (IEEPA). The US government were demanding his extradition from Saudi Arabia.

The 30-year-old later discovered that the allegation related to a trip he had made to North Korea 3 years earlier. He had travelled to the country in 2019 as he’d been invited to speak at a conference there on cryptocurrencies. He thought it would be a bit of an adventure. This resulted in the US government accusing him of advising him of conspiring to help the North Korean regime to evade sanctions by using cryptocurrencies. This offence carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and a fine of up to $1m.

Stranded in Saudi Arabia

interpol red notice
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Emms has spent time in 2 Saudi Arabian prisons and is now on bail in Saudi Arabia. Legal fees following his arrest on the Interpol Red Notice have reached almost $1m and drained his savings. 6 months after his arrest the US government have produced no evidence to support the charges they had him arrested on.

He now has to live in low budget hotels, separated from family and friends, in a strange country. Emms is keen to return to the UK and fight against the extradition from there. He told Sky News: “I really just want to come back home and deal with this through the British court system, which I don’t think is a huge thing to ask, even of the Americans”

Arrested for Suggesting that Sanctions can be Avoided by Using Cryptos

The FBI issued the Interpol Red Notice because Emms gave a speech which suggested that cryptocurrencies could be used to “transfer money around the world, regardless of sanctions”. Surely the North Koreans didn’t need Mr Emms to tell them that?

According to Emms he was not treated well by the North Koreans during his trip to North Korea in 2019. He has his passport confiscated on arrival and his hotel room searched before he left.

“Just before leaving for the airport, and lot of people don’t know this because I didn’t sort of make it public, I was the only person, I was called up to my hotel room and I had my hotel room searched and I was interrogated by the guides.

“So this whole assumption or accusation that I was somehow some kind of friend of North Korea is just completely untrue. It was a very frightening experience.”

Interrogated by UK Authorities

When Emms returned to the UK from North Korea he was interrogated by the British police at Gatwick airport. He claims he was asked some basic questions and then allowed to go.

He didn’t think much about it until another conference attendee was arrested. After being spooked by that he contacted British authorities in Dubai where he was living.

“At the end of the time that I spent with them, you know, they made it clear to me that they didn’t feel that I’d done anything wrong and they weren’t going to take the matter further. So I thought that’s it, that’s fine, we’ll leave it there.”

Emms decided to travel to a conference in Riyadh in February of this year. He was able to leave Dubai and enter Saudi Arabia without issue. It was when he went to the airport for his return flight that the Interpol Red Notice came to light. He has been stuck in Saudi Arabia ever since.

Worrying Precedent

While most of us may never be inclined to travel to North Korea the story of Christopher Emms highlights the need for almost everyone to have a backup plan in place. Here we have the USA reaching extraterritorially to have someone who’s not even a US citizen detained. Emms is not accused of any wrong doing in the US, yet they still seek to extradite him for breaking a law he’d likely never hear of.

This type of strategy by US authorities should be concerning to all of us. It’s more important than ever to have multiple overseas bank accounts and multiple citizenships. You never know when you might need them.

What does an Interpol red notice mean?

This is an alert shared between police forces and border control around the world. It informs them that the individual is wanted in another jurisdiction.

Are Interpol red notices public?

Some are public on Interpol’s website but many remain private.

What people have Red Notices?

People suspected of being outside the jurisdiction where they’re wanted.

What is INTERPOL Yellow notice?

They are used to locate missing persons


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