Researcher Jailed for Teaching North Korea to Circumvent Sanctions

According to COINGEEK’s report on April 14th, the U.S. federal court in New York sentenced former Ethereum Foundation researcher Virgil Griffith to 63 months in prison for traveling to North Korea to give a presentation on how to use digital assets to circumvent sanctions.In September 2021, Griffith pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a fundamental statute of the U.S. sanctions regime.

The allegations arose from Griffith’s decision to attend a meeting in Pyongyang in early 2019 when he was still an employee of the Ethereum Foundation. He gave a presentation on blockchain technology at the meeting.

The visit was a clear violation of U.S. sanctions on North Korea, and the State Department had rejected Griffith’s earlier request to visit North Korea.In delivering the sentence, the judge rejected the claim that Griffith’s conduct was “misguided”. Prosecutors have made it clear that further charges will be brought against Griffith’s co-conspirators.

According to Griffith’s indictment, the accused conspired with “other known and unknown persons” to violate U.S. sanctions. These co-conspirators helped Griffith travel to North Korea and suggested the need to show the people he met in North Korea that blockchain could be used to launder money and avoid sanctions.

It is unclear whether the co-conspirators are other employees of the Ethereum Foundation.

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