Virgil Griffith, a member of the Ethereum project, faces up to 20 years in prison for breaking US sanctions.

ByCatalin CimpanuforBetween the LinesNovember 29, 2019 — 22:15 GMT (06:15 GMT+08:00)Topic:Blockchain

US authorities arrested a cryptocurrency expert and member of the Ethereum project for traveling to North Korea and giving a presentation at a tech conference about using cryptocurrency and blockchain to avoid international sanctions.

The man,Virgil Griffith, 36, a resident of Singapore and a US citizen, was arrested yesterday at the Los Angeles International Airport and arraigned in court today, where he was formally charged.

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In apress releasetoday, the US Department of Justice said Griffith traveled to North Korea in April 2019, where he gave a technical talk at thePyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference.

According to the DOJs criminal complaint [PDF], the State Department denied permission and warned Griffith against traveling to North Korea to attend the conference.

Despite receiving warnings not to go, Griffith allegedly traveled to one of the United States foremost adversaries, North Korea, where he taught his audience how to use blockchain technology to evade sanctions. By this complaint, we begin the process of seeking justice for such conduct, said US Assistant Attorney General John Demers.

The criminal complaint also alleges that Griffith was working on plans to facilitate the exchange of Cryptocurrency-1 [Ether] between the DPRK and South Korea, in violations of US sanctions.

Authorities say Griffith broke sanctions the US government had imposed on North Korea, through laws such as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), andExecutive Order 13466, signed by President Bush in 2008, andExecutive Order 13722, signed by President Obama in 2016.

The sanctions prohibit US citizens, organizations, and private businesses from lending any aid to the North Korean government.

As alleged, Virgil Griffith provided highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions. In allegedly doing so, Griffith jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the president have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Koreas dangerous regime, said US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.

If found guilty, Griffith risks up to 20 years in prison.

Griffith is also part of the Ethereum Foundations Special Projects group, according to hisMedium profile. He also operated a Tor-to-Web (Tor2Web) service called

North Korea has hosted at least two cryptocurrency conferences so far, one in late 2018, and another in the spring of 2019 — the one which Griffith attended.

So Virgil Griffith actually went to this conference (after warnings from the government), gave a talk (technically on sanction evasion using cryptocurrency) and has now been arrested. Why would you even go there for real?? 🤦🏻‍️

In mid-September this year,the US Treasury imposed sanctionson entities associated with three North Korean hacking groups, specifically claiming that the groups have helped the Pyongyang regime raise funds for its weapons and missile programs through hacks of banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.

ByCatalin CimpanuforBetween the LinesNovember 29, 2019 — 22:15 GMT (06:15 GMT+08:00)Topic:Blockchain

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