Federal prosecutors in Manhattan announced Tuesday that a former researcher at a high-profile cryptocurrency group was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiring to help North Korea evade US sanctions against using cryptocurrency.
Virgil Griffith, a former researcher, and developer at Ethereum Cryptocurrency traveled to North Korea in 2019 for the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference despite the US State Department’s explicit mandate that he should not enter the country. While at the conference Griffith gave presentations on how to use cryptocurrency to avoid sanctions by the US government to high-ranking North Korean military personnel.
Daniel Williams, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, referenced the security threat that North Korea poses, stating:
There is no question North Korea poses a national security threat to our nation, and the regime has shown time and again it will stop at nothing to ignore our laws for its own benefit. Mr. Griffith admitted in court he took actions to evade sanctions, which are in place to prevent the DPRK from building a nuclear weapon. Justice has been served with the sentence handed down today.
Williams’ report alleged that Griffith was aware that his actions were in violation of the State Department’s orders, and that he knew the people he would be giving presentations to were high-ranking members of the North Korean military. The report claims that Griffith had begun preparations for this presentation in 2018 and that he had planned to aid North Korea in dodging US sanctions due to his sentiment that cryptocurrency technology should be inclusive to everyone.
Griffith was sentenced to 5 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. It is unknown if or even how North Korea has used any technological knowledge given to them by Griffith.