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 even 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.
Accused of aiding North Korea by teaching them about cryptocurrencies, 36-year-old American programmer and Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith were found guilty of aiding North Korea in avoiding the U.S sanctions, using cryptocurrencies and has now been arrested on November 28th by the U.S. government in New York. He was charged with a violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
As per the announcement, Griffith supposedly attended the conference against the permission of the U.S Department of State. An excerpt from the announcement 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.”
Looking at 20 years in prison?
Recent reports state that the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has filed an indictment against Ethereum Foundation researcher Virgil Griffith on January 7.
As per reports from Inner City Press, Griffith has been indicted for “conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.”
According to the indictment, the defendant and others had breached the prohibitions of the act when Griffith provided services to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea without obtaining approval from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. The defendant is also alleged to have attempted to evade U.S. legal requirements during his actions.
The court documents also suggest that one or more co-conspirators be brought to the Southern District of New York and arrested. The Document states:
“It was a part and an object of the conspiracy that Virgil Griffith, the defendant, and others known and unknown, would and did provide and cause others to provide services to the DPRK, without first obtaining the required approval.”
The court also demands Griffith to forfeit any money or property that might have obtained in return for his appearance in North Korea. Griffith might face a maximum term of 20 years in prison if he is found guilty.
This entire event received a lot of attention and even saw Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin Join in support of him. He said:
“I don’t think what Virgil did give DPRK any kind of real help in doing anything bad. He delivered a presentation based on publicly available info about open-source software. There was no weird hackery ‘advanced tutoring.’ […] Virgil made no personal gain from the trip. […] I hope USA […] focuses on genuine and harmful corruption that it and all countries struggle with rather than going after programmers delivering speeches.”
Griffith was previously denied bail by the judge citing Griffith’s text messages to his parents about renouncing his U.S. citizenship and setting up a money laundering business in North Korea. The judge cited her concerns about Griffith’s failure to disclose “sufficient financial information” as he didn’t tell the court he owned a property and a shell company in Puerto Rico. Apart from that, the judge said that since Griffith never served time, he might be a flight risk.