An Ethereum engineer who gave a lecture on how to use blockchain technology in North Korea was sentenced to 63 months in prison on Tuesday.
Cryptocurrency expert Virgil Griffith will pay a $100,000 fine for assisting North Koreans in evading US sanctions through the use of cryptocurrencies.
The United States forbids its nationals from traveling to North Korea unless they have special permission.
His presentation, according to the US Department of Justice, gave the Kim Jong Un leadership with “technical advise on leveraging Bitcoin, Ethereum and blockchain technologies to circumvent sanctions.”
According to the Inner City Press, Judge Castel stated on Tuesday:
“Virgil Griffith has no ideology. He’ll play off both sides, as long as he is at the center. I sentence him to 63 months in prison and a fine of $100,000.”
Teaching Kim’s Regime Crypto Tactics
To avoid prosecution under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which prevents US citizens from exporting goods, services, or technology to sanctioned countries like North Korea, Griffith, 39, agreed to plead guilty to one count of the charge in September.
Griffith, a Wikipedia contributor, was arrested in November 2019 after giving a discussion at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference in April of that year.
To him, the travel to the north was well within his rights as a technical expert promoting Ethereum and blockchain knowledge and encouraging others to participate in mining and trading digital currency.
Crypto total market cap at $1.81 trillion on the daily chart | Source: TradingView.com
Ethereum Developer Pays The Price
The feds, on the other hand, interpreted it as an American advising militant criminals in dictator Kim’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea how to avoid economic sanctions and store funds in order to manufacture nuclear missiles that endanger the world.
Federal prosecutors accused the former Ethereum Foundation researcher of compromising US diplomacy and undermining economic sanctions aimed at putting pressure on a hostile foreign state.
“What you see here is an intentionality… and a desire to educate people on how to evade international sanctions,” Castel said.
Despite the fact that the offense carried a potential penalty of 20 years in prison, Griffith’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors reduced the sentence to a range of 63 to 78 months — roughly five to 6.5 years.
Griffith has previously been imprisoned for over two years, but he was released on bail for 14 of those months. The remaining 10 months will be counted as time served by the court.
Image credit: Vox
Hacking To Fund The Dictatorship
The federal judge claims that a rise in the value of his bitcoin and Ethereum assets provided him with the means and motive to flee. He was apparently apprehended while attempting to access his Coinbase account.
North Korea has been hacking cryptocurrency-related companies for years to generate revenue for the dictatorship, despite the threat of harsh international sanctions.
According to a United Nations probe, Kim’s hackers stole $316.4 million in virtual assets from 2019 to 2020 to support North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
Suggested Reading | EU Includes Crypto Assets On Its Sanctions List Against Russia And Belarus
Featured image from Wealth Insider, chart from TradingView.com