Virgil Griffith is accused of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by giving a presentation on blockchain in North Korea.
Computer expert Virgil Griffith, a U.S. citizen living in Singapore, has been charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The Justice Department accusing him of conspiring to help North Korea evade sanctions via blockchain and cryptocurrency. He was in a Los Angeles federal court on Monday to answer to the charges, which carry a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.
“Despite receiving warnings not to go, Griffith allegedly traveled to one of the United States’ foremost adversaries, North Korea, where he taught his audience how to use blockchain technology to evade sanctions,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a statement.
Griffith allegedly attended a blockchain conference in North Korea even though the State Department denied him permission to do so due to the sanctions imposed on the country. At the conference, authorities say Griffith gave the North Korean government valuable information on blockchain, cryptocurrency, and how to use both to evade sanctions and commit money laundering.
According to the criminal complaint, unsealed Friday, Griffith is accused of traveling to North Korea in April to participate in a blockchain conference in the capital city of Pyongyang despite being denied permission to do so by the U.S. State Department due to sanctions imposed against the embattled Asian nation. He is also accused of planning to establish a cryptocurrency exchange between North and South Korea and was planning to purchase citizenship from another country and give up his U.S. one.
“As alleged, Virgil Griffith provided highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. “In allegedly doing so, Griffith jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the president have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime.”
Griffith has been freed from jail pending trial.