American cryptocurrency expert charged with helping North Korea evade USA sanctions: DOJ

Nellie Chapman
December 3, 2019

The conference itself was attended by about 100 people, some of whom worked for the North Korean government.

On Friday, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of NY announced that Ethereum Foundation staff member Virgil Griffith was arrested. Griffith traveled to China and then North Korea anyway.

You can read the full criminal complaint against Griffith below.

Virgil was warned not to travel to North Korea.

Virgil Griffith's lawyer Brian Klein informed on twitter that the judge allowed Griffith to be released from jail until the trial.

According to Klein, Griffith is set to be released from prison once his bond is posted.

Earlier this year, Griffith made public statements asking for advice on renouncing his USA citizenship.

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Prosecutors say another person involved in the alleged conspiracy was to be brought to NY and arrested.

Griffith is accused of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which bars USA citizens from exporting goods, services, or technology to North Korea without a license from the Department of Treasury.

The DOJ's criminal complaint says Griffith taught an audience in North Korea earlier this year how to use blockchain - the technology behind cryptocurrency - despite the State Department denying Griffith permission to travel there.

A special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed Griffith back in May 2019.

At the gathering, Griffith presented a talk on the quickly evolving world of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin and ethereum, and blockchain, the technology underpinning the controversial monetary systems. According to the complaint, a conference organizer told Griffith he should "stress the potential money laundering and sanction evasion applications" of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology during his talk, which he went on to allegedly do. When the person who received the message asked whether the transaction would be a violation of USA sanctions, Griffith allegedly responded, "It is". Griffith did research at several respected institutions, including Stanford University and the Santa Fe Institute, and now works at Ethereum Foundation, a research arm of the ethereum cryptocurrency, according to a curriculum vitae Griffith posted online.

That said, Buterin also tempers his statements by saying that Griffith is a "friend of his" and that "this whole thing has nothing to do with the Ethereum Foundation".

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