He helped North Korea with cryptocurrencies, faces years in prison

An American citizen probably wasn’t thinking about the consequences of his actions when he decided to help North Korea enter the cryptocurrency market, but American law is unforgiving.

Virgil Griffith, an American citizen of Singaporean descent and Ethereum Foundation researcher, was found guilty of advising North Korea on cryptocurrencies. The man pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and now faces between 63 and 78 months in prison, with sentencing set for January 18. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Virgil Griffith had already put together a plan in 2018 to provide cryptocurrency services to select North Koreans by developing and funding the necessary infrastructure on the ground.

By the way, we learn that the man was fully aware that in this way he was helping a hostile country avoid US sanctions. What’s more, the man traveled to North Korea in 2019 to attend a conference on cryptocurrencies and blockchain, despite the fact that the State Department refused to allow him to make this trip, as this would have violated the existing ban on the “export of goods, services and technology.” However, the man stood his ground and, as the Justice Department suggests, thereby provided “the DPRK with instructions on how to use blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to launder money and evade sanctions, and how smart contract blockchain technology can be used to the DPRK’s advantage, if only in nuclear negotiations with the United States.”

Virgil Griffith also announced plans to renounce his U.S. citizenship to buy citizenship of another country and tried to recruit other U.S. citizens to fly to North Korea and provide similar services for his plans. The man did not enjoy his plans and business for long, however, as he was arrested and now faces consequences for his actions. The maximum possible sentence is up to 20 years, but Griffith decided to take a plea deal, so he will spend a maximum of 6 and a half years behind bars.

Was it worth it? It is hard to say, because we do not know how much money he earned and whether he managed to hide it (but since he taught others how to launder money, we probably do not have to “worry” about it), but one thing is certain – after serving a prison sentence he is unlikely to find employment in the profession, and we are talking about a person with a PhD in theoretical neuroscience.

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