Published: Mon, December 02, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

S'pore-based cryptocurrency promoter arrested for helping N. Korea

S'pore-based cryptocurrency promoter arrested for helping N. Korea

The US authorities arrested a cryptocurrency expert and member of the Ethereum project for traveling to North Korea and making a presentation at a technology conference on the use of cryptocurrencies and blockchain to avoid global sanctions.

The announcement adds that Griffith's actions jeopardized the measures that were enacted by the US Congress, as well as the president himself, in order to put pressure on North Korea's unsafe regime.

The FBI arrested the Ethereum Foundation's special projects director today at Los Angeles International Airport, alleging that he assisted the North Korean regime in devising a workaround for U.S. sanctions using the Ethereum blockchain.

Virgil Griffith is accused of violating the Worldwide Emergency Financial Powers Act, which has a maximum 20 Twelve months sentence, after travelling to Pyonyang to chat at the regime's annual blockchain match, despite warnings from the U.S. authorities.

John Demers, the Assistant Attorney General, also commented in the press release, stating that Griffith had received warnings not to go to North Korea before he took his trip.

According to the criminal complaint from the Department of Justice (PDF), the State Department denied permission and warned Griffith not to travel to North Korea to attend the conference.

The complaint in the Manhattan states that Griffith's travel arrangements were to both attend and present at an event called the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference.

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The US Attorney for the Southern District of NY has alleged that Virgil Griffith provided highly technical information to North Korea, information that could help Kim Jong-Un regime to launder money and evade sanctions.

The maximum prison time for said charges is 20 years, according to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.

The cryptocurrency community at large, which consists of many that aren't the biggest fans of North Korea, obviously were taken rather aback at this event.

After the conference, it said, Griffith "began formulating plans to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrency between the DPRK and South Korea, despite knowing that assisting with such an exchange would violate sanctions".

The IEEPA and Executive Order 13466 state that no citizen of the United States is permitted to export technology, services, or goods without getting a prior license from the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC").

The sanctions prohibit USA citizens, organizations and private companies from providing any assistance to the North Korean government.

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