US Scientist Gets Jail Sentence for Advising North Korea on Using Ethereum Blockchain for Evading Sanctions
More than five years in prison for a former Ethereum Foundation research scientist who provided North Korea with sanctions-evasion knowledge. Prior to his arrest in December of this year, US citizen Virgil Griffith, who had been living in Singapore, gave a speech at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference.
Griffith was charged by the Justice Department of discussing how North Korea may dodge restrictions imposed by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). In 2018, it was claimed that Griffith had already begun planning plans to give services to North Korea and was advised not to go to North Korea after the United States Department of State had refused permission for him do so.
He also requested that his travel visa be granted on a separate piece of paper, rather than in his passport, in order to conceal the fact that he had gone to the nation. North Korea might utilize blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies to launder money and escape sanctions, according to Griffith, who spoke at the conference on the subject.
His lecture covered the benefits of smart contracts, especially in nuclear weapons discussions, and addressed specific questions from North Korean government officials. Griffith was also accused of attempting to organize a bitcoin transaction between the North and South Korean governments while knowing that doing so would violate sanctions.
Reports from CoinDesk today said that an appeal from the defense for Griffith, who has been incarcerated in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, requested mercy due to severe circumstances. The pleas had little effect on US District Judge Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York.
Castel stated that “Virgil Griffith had planned to return to Singapore or somewhere as a crypto hero, and such was the reality. To be lauded and revered for his bravery and noblery in defying government sanctions.”
63 months in jail, a fine of $100,000, and three years of probation were all part of the punishment.
US Attorney Damian Williams said “North Korea is without a doubt a national security concern to the United States, and the leadership has repeatedly shown its willingness to flout our rules in order to further its own interests. During his trial, Mr. Griffith stated that he had taken steps to circumvent restrictions enacted to prevent the DPRK from developing a nuclear weapon of its own. The penalty handed out today has done the wrongdoer some good.”