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.

SEE:How blockchain will disrupt business(ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature)Download the free PDF version(TechRepublic)

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 Onion.city.

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

Russia to invest $31 million in a local Wikipedia clone

Dutch politician faces three years in prison for hacking iCloud accounts and leaking nudes

80% of all Android apps are encrypting traffic by default

Mozilla removes Avast and AVG extensions from add-on portal over snooping claims

Please review our terms of service to complete your newsletter subscription.

By registering you become a member of the CBS Interactive family of sites and you have read and agree to theTerms of UsePrivacy PolicyandVideo Services Policy. You agree to receive updates, alerts and promotions from CBS and that CBS may share information about you with our marketing partners so that they may contact you by email or otherwise about their products or services. You will also receive a complimentary subscription to the ZDNets Tech Update Today and ZDNet Announcement newsletters. You may unsubscribe from these newsletters at any time.

Research: Blockchain must overcome hurdles before becoming a mainstream technology

A recent TechRepublic Premium poll shows that while 87% of respondents think blockchain will positively impact their industry, only 10% actively use it. …

How Blockchain Will Disrupt Business (free PDF)

This special report from ZDNet and TechRepublic examines how blockchain may shake up the economy and redefine industries. Download the entire report as a free PDF ebook. …

Upbit cryptocurrency exchange loses $48.5 million to hackers

Ethereum has been stolen from the companys main hot wallet.

Predictions 2020: Distributed ledger technology moves beyond proof of concept

In 2020 users of blockchain and distributed ledger technology will focus on operational matters, deployment flexibility and, interconnectivity. Read our 2020 predictions to …

Monash Uni widens blockchain research scope with new centre

The new centre will see the universitys IT faculty work with other faculties and international partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

ASX bets blockchain hype will subside in a few years

Just give it another two to seven years, ASX deputy CEO Peter Hiom reckons.

Official Monero website compromised with malware that steals funds

Official Linux CLI binary for the Monero cryptocurrency compromised with malware that steals users funds.

Hahn Air claims first blockchain-powered airline ticket

The German airline partnered with Winding Tree to send passengers holding blockchain-powered tickets from Dusseldorf to Luxembourg.

19 useful metrics for measuring blockchain progress

Key business areas where the outcomes of blockchain efforts can be measured.