The office of the United States Attorney, Southern District of New York together with the FBI announced on Nov.29 that Virgil Griffith has been arrested for violating U.S. sanctions laws and traveling to North Korea to “deliver a presentation and technical advice on using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to evade sanctions.”
Also, investigations claim that Virgil Griffith “provided highly technical information to North Korea; knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions,”; during a trip to North Korea earlier this year.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement:
“As alleged, Virgil Griffith provided highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions. In allegedly doing so, Griffith jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the president have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime.”
Griffith Defied U.S. Government
Moreover, Griffith ignored the United States government and attended a Cryptocurrency and Blockchain conference in Pyongyang in February. At the conference, North Korea officials engaged on the prospect of a sovereign cryptocurrency; and a way to utilize Ethereum “smart contracts” to develop an extra-judicial court system.
According to FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr:
“We cannot 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.”
However, Griffith’s friend Wills Bentley de Vogeleare believes that the FBI is ‘overreacting’. He said that Griffith “wasn’t there to teach them about how to get around sanctions but teach them about Ethereum, just like he’s done at many similar conferences around the world.”
In conclusion, Griffith has been charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. This charge carries with it a maximum 20-year prison sentence.