US citizen guilty of conspiring with North Korea: DOJ

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Virgil Griffith is a former senior researcher and developer at the Ethereum Foundation

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A US citizen has pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide cryptocurrency services to North Korea, the Justice Department announced this week.

Virgil Griffith, 38, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by providing services to North Korea, including technical advice on how to use cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to evade sanctions . The US Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York said in an announcement.

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“In accordance with IEEPA and Executive Order 13466, United States persons are prohibited from exporting any goods, services or technology to the DPRK. [North Korea] without a license from the Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC),” according to the DOJ.

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Griffith was a research scientist at the Ethereum Foundation and holds a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology in Computation and Neural Systems. According to his LinkedIn profile.

Activities in North Korea

In April 2019, Griffith traveled to North Korea to attend and attend the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, although permission to travel was denied by the State Department.

Griffith then gave presentations at the conference, “conforming to the DPRK audience, knowing that doing so violated sanctions against him. [North Korea]According to the DOJ, “and, along with its co-conspirators, it directed how North Korea “may use blockchain and cryptocurrency technology” to avoid money laundering and sanctions.

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Presentations also included how blockchain technology could be used to benefit North Korea, including nuclear weapons talks with the United States. The DOJ said there were individuals in the audience whom Griffith knew worked for the North Korean government.

The DOJ said that later, Griffith also became involved in facilitating a cryptocurrency exchange between North Korea and South Korea – also in violation of sanctions – and recruiting other US citizens to travel to North Korea and allowing North Korean individuals to travel to North Korea. To “provide similar services”.

US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement, “As she acknowledged in court … Virgil Griffith agreed to help North Korea, one of our nation’s most dangerous foreign adversaries.”

“Griffith worked with others to provide cryptocurrency services to North Korea and assist North Korea in evading sanctions, and traveled to North Korea to do so,” Strauss said. In the process, Griffith jeopardizes the national security of the United States. Both Congress and the president have undermined the sanctions in order to exert maximum pressure on the threat posed by North Korea’s treacherous regime.”

According to a report in Griffith, Brian Klein, an attorney representing Griffith, said, “Griffith “sincerely regrets”. wall street journal. “Setting aside what happened, he has made a significant contribution to society that we will take up in court,” Klein said.

Griffith’s lawyers also said in the legal filing that “he did not violate the law because he did not provide any service to North Korea” and provided “basic information that can be found by anyone on the Internet”, according to the report.

Griffith, who is also a resident of Singapore, pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to violate the IEEPA, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.

He is to be sentenced on January 18, 2022.


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