Man Charged After Sharing Cryptocurrency Knowhow

The worlds of cryptocurrency and Blockchain were stirred in November, when a man named Virgil Griffith was charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by traveling to North Korea to deliver a presentation and technical advice on using cryptocurrency and Blockchain technology to evade sanctions.

Griffith was charged with providing “highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions” by the US Department of Justice. It claimed that in his actions, he had “jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the President have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime.”

In particular, executive orders signed by President Bush in 2008 and President Obama in 2016 prohibit US citizens, organizations and private businesses from lending any aid to the North Korean government. Despite this, and despite receiving warnings not to go, he did so, and attended and presented at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference.

The DoJ said that Griffith attended in order to discuss how North Korea “could use Blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to launder money and evade sanctions” in a presentation that had been approved by DPRK officials.

After the conference, Griffith is alleged to have formulated plans to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrency between North and South Korea, despite knowing that assisting with such an exchange would violate sanctions against the DPRK.

Griffith, who is a resident of Singapore, also announced his intention to renounce his US citizenship and began researching how to purchase citizenship from other countries. No stranger to cryptocurrency, he claims to be part of the Ethereum Foundation’s Special Projects group.

If found guilty, Griffith risks up to 20 years in prison. Representing him, Brian Klein, partner at Baker Marquart LLP, said that they disputed “the untested allegations in the criminal complaint.”

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?