September 28, 2021

US Citizen Helped North Korea Evade Sanctions Through Blockchain

By Jason Bartlett

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced yesterday that U.S. citizen Virgil Griffith has pled guilty to providing technical advice to North Korea on using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to evade sanctions. Griffith is scheduled to be sentenced in January 2022, could serve up to two decades in prison. While a victory for U.S. law enforcement, this highlights the grim reality that despite the dangers of North Korean nuclear proliferation, even U.S. citizens are susceptible to enticement from Pyongyang.

Now it is clear that even U.S. citizens are not exempt from North Korean enticement.

A former senior researcher and developer for Ethereum Foundation, Griffith was an ideal candidate for helping North Korea achieve its blockchain ambitions as its cyber-enabled sanctions evasion schemes could benefit from his knowledge in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. According to U.S. government records, Griffith traveled to North Korea in April 2019 to attend and present at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference where he worked with “others” to provide cryptocurrency services aimed at assisting North Korea in evading sanctions. Griffith pursued plans to facilitate cryptocurrency exchanges between North and South Korea while attempting to recruit other U.S. citizens and liaise deals with cryptocurrency and blockchain service providers on behalf of Pyongyang. These actions directly violated U.S. law as the U.S. State Department denied Griffith permission to travel to North Korea and he did not obtain a license from Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to provide goods, services, or technology to North Korea.

Read the full article from The Diplomat.

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