A US cryptocurrency specialist was sentenced to 63 months in jail Tuesday for counseling North Korea on how to build cryptocurrency services and blockchain technology in order to avoid US restrictions on its nuclear program, New York court authorities said.
Virgil Griffith, 39, pled guilty to conspiring to break US law to avoid a 20-year term.
Prosecutor Damian Williams said “there is no question North Korea poses a national security threat to our nation, and the regime has shown time and again it will stop at nothing to ignore our laws for its own benefit.
He said that Griffith had “admitted in court he took actions to evade sanctions, which are in place to prevent (North Korea) from building a nuclear weapon.”
Griffith spoke on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies in Pyongyang, North Korea, in April 2019. At November of that year, he was detained in LAX.
According to the court, Griffith discussed how North Korea may use technology to launder money and bypass sanctions, including via “smart contracts.”
The prosecution said that after the presentation, Griffith “pursued plans to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrency between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and South Korea, despite knowing that assisting with such an exchange would violate sanctions against the DPRK.”
The export of goods, services, or technology to North Korea is prohibited unless special clearance is obtained from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Griffith will serve 63 months in prison as well as three years on probation.
Griffith has a PhD from the California Institute of Technology and has worked on Ethereum, a Singapore-based worldwide platform featuring blockchain technology for commercial and financial usage that has its own cryptocurrency.
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