Virgil Griffith, a research scientist with the Ethereum Foundation and citizen of the United States, has been arrested under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act in line with the accusation that Griffith helped North Korea understand how they can use cryptocurrency to evade United States economic sanctions on their country. While being in attendance at that conference likely wouldn't be deemed illegal or unsafe by American officials, the individual was presenting, and was reported to show North Korea officials how to use blockchain technologies to evade sanctions placed on the nation by the USA and its allies.
Though the charges were filed in New York, Griffith is scheduled to first appear in federal court in Los Angeles sometime Friday.
He allegedly delivered a presentation on how to use cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to circumvent sanctions in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). In doing so, Griffith endangered the sanctions that both Congress and President have promulgated maximum pressure on the unsafe North Korean regime, "said USA prosecutor Geoffrey S. Berman".
Griffith allegedly defied the United States government and attended the Pyongyang Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Conference in February.
John Demers, the Assistant Attorney General, also commented in the press release, stating that Griffith had received warnings not to go to North Korea before he took his trip. On April 18, it alleges he travelled to North Korea through China.
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"We can not allow anyone to evade sanctions, because the consequences of North Korea obtaining funding, technology, and information to further its desire to build nuclear weapons put the world at risk", said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr.
After the conference, it said, Griffith "began formulating plans to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrency between the DPRK and South Korea, despite knowing that assisting with such an exchange would violate sanctions". If convicted, the crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
North Korea has organized at least two cryptocurrency conferences so far, one at the end of 2018 and another in the spring of 2019, which Griffith attended.
Virgil Griffith attended a blockchain conference in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.