Ethereum Developer Sentenced to 5 Years in Jail for Helping North Korea Evade Sanctions

American programmer Griffith

April 13, 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

American Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith has been sentenced to 63 months in federal prison for charges of helping North Korea evade US sanctions using cryptocurrency.

Virgil Griffith Was Arrested After Speaking at a Conference in North Korea

Griffith, who was apprehended by authorities in 2019, pled guilty in 2020 to one count of conspiracy to violate US-imposed international sanctions against North Korea. The US Sanction against North Korea is under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. 

The act prohibits US citizens from exporting goods, services, or technology to North Korea. It was enacted following North Korea’s decision to develop nuclear weapons technology.

Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith allegedly travelled to North Korea via China and helped its people leverage cryptocurrencies to dodge the sanction. The programmer was arrested in November 2019 after speaking at a cryptocurrency conference in Pyongyang. 

As per the DOJ, the talk American programmer Griffith delivered gave North Korea technical advice on leveraging Bitcoin, Ethereum, and blockchain technologies to circumvent sanctions. The prosecution stated that the Ethereum developer was fully aware of North Korea’s atrocities against its people and its threats against the US, citing its nuclear capabilities.

Griffith’s Plea Deal Reduced the Sentence from a Maximum of 20 Years

The Judge presiding over the case also referred to Griffith as someone with no ideology and is willing to play off both sides as long as he is at the centre. The crime of sanction evasion usually carries a maximum penalty of 20 years. However, Griffith got fair sentencing because of taking a plea deal. 

According to US District Judge Kevin Casted, the 63 months will include the 2 years and less the 14 months American programmer Griffith was out on bail. Apart from the time he is to serve, Griffith is also required to pay a $100,000 fine.

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