An Ethereum engineer who gave a lecture on the use of blockchain technology in North Korea was sentenced to 63 months in prison on Tuesday.
Cryptocurrency expert Virgil Griffith will pay a $100,000 fine for helping North Koreans evade US sanctions through the use of cryptocurrencies.
The United States prohibits its nationals from traveling to North Korea unless they have special permission.
His presentation, according to the US Department of Justice, gave Kim Jong Un’s leadership “technical advice on using Bitcoin, Ethereum and blockchain technologies to circumvent sanctions.”
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According to Inner City Press, Judge Castel said on Tuesday:
“Virgil Griffith has no ideology. He will play both sides, as long as he is in the center. I sentence him to 63 months in prison and a fine of $100,000.
Teaching the Kim Regime’s Crypto Tactics
To avoid prosecution under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which prevents U.S. citizens from exporting goods, services or technology to sanctioned countries like North Korea, Griffith, 39, agreed to plead guilty on one count in September.
Griffith, a Wikipedia contributor, was arrested in November 2019 after giving a talk at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference in April of that year.
For him, the journey north was well within his rights as a technical expert promoting Ethereum and blockchain knowledge and encouraging others to participate in digital currency mining and trading.
Crypto total market cap at $1.81 trillion on the daily chart | Source: TradingView.com
Ethereum developer pays the price
The federal government, meanwhile, interpreted it as an American advising militant criminals in dictator Kim’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea how to avoid economic sanctions and hoard funds in order to manufacture nuclear missiles that endanger the world. .
Federal prosecutors have accused the former Ethereum Foundation researcher of compromising US diplomacy and undermining economic sanctions aimed at pressuring a hostile foreign state.
“What you see here is an intention…and a desire to educate people on how to evade international sanctions,” Castel said.
Despite the offense carrying a potential sentence of 20 years in prison, Griffith’s plea deal with federal prosecutors reduced the sentence to a range of 63 to 78 months, or about five to 6.5 years.
Griffith has already been jailed for more than two years, but he was released on bail for 14 of those months. The remaining 10 months will be counted as time served by the court.
Image credit: Vox
Hack to finance the dictatorship
The federal judge says a rise in the value of his Bitcoin and Ethereum assets provided him with the means and motive to flee. He was apparently apprehended trying to access his Coinbase account.
North Korea has been hacking cryptocurrency-related businesses for years to generate revenue for the dictatorship, despite the threat of harsh international sanctions.
According to a United Nations investigation, Kim hackers stole $316.4 million in virtual assets from 2019 to 2020 to support North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
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Featured image from Wealth Insider, chart from TradingView.com