Cryptocurrency expert helping North Korea pleads guilty

Cryptocurrency expert helping North Korea pleads guilty

On Monday, September 27, 2021, Virgil Griffith, a former senior researcher at the Ethereum Foundation was scheduled to go on trial for conspiring against the US with North Korea. Instead of a trial, however, he decided to appear before a district judge in a Manhattan, New York court and plead guilty. What exactly happened is described below.

What did Virgil Griffith do?

In April 2019, Virgil Griffith traveled to Pyongyang to attend the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference. Griffith was one of about 100 attendees. The U.S. Department of Justice did not allow him to leave, however, the scientist ignored the formal warning and crossed the border into North Korea from China. 

It is known that he gave a presentation at the conference with the title “Blockchain and Peace”. The presentation, and the topics it covered, were approved in advance by North Korean officials. After the conference, Griffith participated in discussions about using blockchain technology to avoid sanctions and money laundering.

Here’s what the Justice Department says about Griffith’s presentation: it was to focus on “how blockchain technology, such as smart contracts, can be used to benefit North Korea, including in nuclear negotiations with the United States.” In contrast, the U.S. lawyer in the U.S. vs. Griffith trial adds that he has helped “one of the United States’ most dangerous adversaries, North Korea.”

Will Griffith face consequences?

Vrigil Griffith lived in Singapore until 2019. In April 2019, he flew to Los Angeles, and was arrested there. For the time being, he’s been in federal custody since July 2021, as Judge Castel revoked his bail on the grounds that the value of Griffith’s cryptocurrencies has increased. So will the programmer suffer the consequences? There is no doubt about it. Virgil Griffith will be sentenced on January 18 next year. Initially, he was facing up to 20 years in prison, however, after negotiations, prosecutors agreed to a sentence of 63 months to 78 months.

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