Cryptocurrency Expert Admits Helping North

A cryptocurrency expert speaking at a Pyongyang conference admitted to conspiring to help North Korea evade sanctions. Virgil Griffith, a former Principal Investigator for the Ethereum Foundation, pleaded guilty on Monday.

The US Department of Justice said it had “endangered the national security of the United States” by undermining sanctions. His attorney told the Wall Street Journal that Griffith was “sincerely sorry. Money laundering In April 2019, Griffith attended the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, with around 100 other attendees. He had applied for permission to travel to North Korea, but when it was denied, he went anyway and reached the country via China.

Seven months later, Griffith, who was living in Singapore, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport. Prosecutors said Griffith had made a presentation on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, with topics approved by North Korean officials, and “participated in discussions about the use of cryptocurrency technologies to evade sanctions and launder money. The title of the presentation was Blockchain and Peace.

Blockchain is the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies, in effect a gigantic shared transaction book. Following Griffith’s arrest, Ethereum cryptocurrency co-founder Vitalik Buterin circulated a petition in support of him, which attracted only modest support. In the Twitter thread, Buterin said the foundation had not supported Griffith’s activities in North Korea, saying: “It was Virgil’s personal trip, which many advised against.”

On Monday, Griffith pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the US International Emergency Economic Powers Act by providing services to North Korea, including technical advice on the use of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to evade sanctions, according to a statement from the Department of Justice. Griffith, who will be sentenced in January, faces 20 years in jail, but his statement likely means his final sentence will be considerably shorter.

Griffith’s presentation, the justice department said, focused, among other things, on “how blockchain technology like ‘smart contracts’ could be used to benefit the DPRK [North Korea], including in the nuclear weapons negotiations. with the United States. Ethan Lou, a journalist who attended the conference in North Korea and is following the trial, said the guilty plea was a “plea deal with up to six and a half years in prison.

 

 

 

 

 

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