The United States has had a strenuous relationship with North Korea long before the political tension with Iran that saw Bitcoin’s price rally upward. The primary reason for that is the sanctions placed by the US back in 2006, which have turned out to be quite strict over the years especially due to the nation’s anti-terrorism efforts.
North Korea is the most notorious name on the list of sanctioned countries. The nation has been utilizing cryptocurrencies to garner extra funds to boost their weapons programs while bypassing U.S sanctions. They have carried out a number of hacks and ransomware attacks and have even been accused of laundering crypto funds using a blockchain company located in China.
Say No to North Korea
Recent reports now state that the United Nations has issued a warning about attending a North Korean cryptocurrency conference set to be held in February stating that it could lead to a sanctions violation. The move comes right after the indictment of Virgil Griffith as he was charged with conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
Griffith has been accused of providing information to North Korea about how cryptocurrencies could be used to bypass U.S sanctions and “launder money” during his presentation titled “Blockchain and Peace” in Pyongyang and could now face 20 years in prison.
Griffith supposedly attended the conference against the permission of the U.S Department of State. An excerpt from the announcement from the US Attorney’s office reads:
“GRIFFITH presented at the DPRK Cryptocurrency Conference, knowing that doing so violated sanctions against the DPRK. At no time did GRIFFITH obtain permission from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to provide goods, services, or technology to the DPRK.”
The restrictions are justified because according to an earlier UN report, it is expected that the cryptocurrency funds acquired via hacks of cryptocurrency exchanges, as well as banking institutions, are being used for weapons programs, as well as to avoid sanctions. Alongside this, the UN even reported that North Korea has already managed to steal as much as $2 billion via illicit crypto mining and hacks.
Furthermore, an anonymous British government spokesperson told Reuters:
“Supporting the DPRK’s use of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology risks violating the Security Council’s resolutions because it would unavoidably increase the DPRK’s ability to subvert sanctions and generate revenue for its weapons programs.”
Prosecutors of the Griffith believe that other United States citizens might have been influenced by him to attend the conference this year.
North Korea plays it smart
Interestingly, the conference website is trying to attract American attendees by stating that individuals from any country except for South Korea, Japan and Israel are allowed to visit, adding that visitor passports will not be stamped:
“We will provide a paper visa separated from your passport, so there will be no evidence of your entry to the country. Your participation will never be disclosed from our side unless you publicize it on your own.”
It’s quite evident that North Korea is trying to battle restrictions placed by the US using cryptocurrencies. The nation is also in the early stages of deploying a cryptocurrency that will allow it to evade international sanctions and “circumvent the U.S.-dominated global financial system. “
These events raise serious concerns in the eyes of the authorities about how the cryptocurrencies are being used as a tool to work against government protocol. Any further violation could also be damaging for the reputation of the crypto industry which is not so great in the first place.