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American blockchain expert arrested for attending conference in North Korea

Cryptocurrency and blockchain expert Virgil Griffith is arrested in the United States for attending a conference in sanctioned North Korea.

According to the press service of the US Department of Justice, attending a conference on cryptocurrencies in Pyongyang in April this year, Virgil Griffith violated the sanctions imposed by the US government against the North Korea.

Geoffrey S. Berman
Geoffrey S. Berman

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, John Brown, Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Counterintelligence Division) announced today the unsealing of a criminal complaint charging VIRGIL GRIFFITH, a United States citizen, with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”) by traveling to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) in order deliver a presentation and technical advice on using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to evade sanctions”, — reports the press service of the US Department of Justice.

Griffith was arrested in Los Angeles airport on Thursday, November 28, and appeared before a court on Friday, where he was charged with conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

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Charges were filed for Griffith attending the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference held in Pyongyang on April 23-24. Griffith is an expert in the field of cryptocurrency applications and darknet and currently holds the position of researcher in the organization Ethereum Foundation.

Before heading to North Korea, Griffith applied to the US Department of State for permission. Although he was denied, the researcher ventured to fly to North Korea. In May, him interviewed FBI. During the survey, Griffith described how he managed to get a visa to the country through the North Korean diplomatic mission in New York.

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John Demers
John Demers

“Despite receiving warnings not to go, Griffith allegedly traveled to one of the United States’ main adversaries, North Korea, where he taught his audience how to use blockchain technology to evade sanctions. By this complaint, we begin the process of seeking justice for such conduct”, — said Assistant Attorney General John Demers.

Although the US government forbids its citizens to visit the DPRK, North Koreans prohibits travelling only Israel, South Korea and Japan citizens. Moreover, American experts were actively invited to participate on the conference website.

GRIFFITH charged with conspiring to violate the IEEPA, which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as the only judge will determine any sentencing of the defendant.
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