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Thursday, December 8, 2022

US Cryptocurrency Expert Jailed After Helping North Korea Avoid Sanctions

A former bitcoin researcher in the United States was sentenced to more than five years in jail for conspiring to use cryptocurrencies to assist North Korea avoid US sanctions.

Virgil Griffith has already admitted to breaking US law by plotting to do so.

He formerly worked at the Ethereum Foundation, a non-profit devoted to the technology that underpins the cryptocurrency ether.

Prosecutors had requested the shortest possible jail term.

A $100,000 (£76,864) fine was also imposed on him. The 39-year-old was facing up to 20 years in jail and a $1 million fine if convicted.

While the sentencing was disheartening, his lawyer stated in a statement that the court “acknowledged Virgil’s willingness to going ahead with his life effectively, and that he is a talented person with much to give.”

“Justice has been served,” stated US Attorney Damian Williams in a statement.

Griffith pled guilty in September to conspiring to violate the US International Emergency Economic Powers Act by giving a lecture on blockchain technology in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.

Griffith, who holds a degree from the California Institute of Technology, allegedly traveled to North Korea via China in April 2019 to present at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference despite the US Department of State denying him permission to do so.

Griffith recognized the information may be used to avoid sanctions placed by the US on North Korea for its nuclear weapons program, according to prosecutors.

“The fact that blockchains are open is their most crucial characteristic. And no matter what the US or the UN say, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) cannot be kept out “According to prosecutors, Griffith remarked during the presentation.

He had “jeopardized the national security of the United States” by weakening sanctions, the US Department of Justice stated in September.

At the time of Griffith’s arrest, the Ethereum Foundation stated that it had neither sanctioned or endorsed his trip to North Korea.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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