Ethereum developer jailed for helping North Korea evade sanctions

Ethereum North Korea

Virgil Griffith, a US cryptocurrency expert, was sentenced Tuesday to 63 months in prison after pleading guilty to helping the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with technical information about sanctions evasion.

The sanctions imposed by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and Executive Order 13466 prohibit the export of goods, services or technology to the DPRK without a license issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) from the Ministry of Finance .

Griffith, who worked as a special project developer and research scientist for the Ethereum Foundation, was arrested by the FBI in November 2019 after a presentation in North Korea about how the country could use cryptocurrency and blockchain technology (i.e., smart contracts) to whiten money. washing and evading sanctions.

“There is no doubt that North Korea poses a threat to our nation’s national security, and the regime has shown time and again that it will stop at nothing to ignore our laws to its own advantage,” Attorney General Damian Williams.

“Mr Griffith has admitted in court that he has taken measures to evade sanctions, which are in place to prevent the DPRK from building a nuclear weapon. The verdict was handed down today.”

Travel to North Korea without OFAC license

Despite not being authorized by the US State Department, Griffith went to the North Korean conference knowing that without a permit from OFAC, doing so would violate US sanctions against the DPRK.

According to court documents, the cryptocurrency expert has asked to receive his travel visa on a separate paper and not on his US passport, presumably to avoid providing physical evidence of his trip to North Korea.

At the DPRK Cryptocurrency Conference, “Griffith and his co-conspirators also answered specific questions about blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies for the DPRK public, including individuals Griffith understood were working for the North Korean government.” That’s what DOJ said today.

He also sought to “recruit other US citizens to travel to North Korea and provide similar services to DPRK individuals and sought to introduce the DPRK to other cryptocurrency and blockchain service providers.”

At the DPRK Cryptocurrency Conference, he also spoke about how North Korea could use cryptocurrency to gain financial independence from the global banking system.

In addition to serving more than five years in prison for conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, Griffith was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and a $100,000 fine.

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