An American citizen and researcher has been arrested on charges of illegally travelling to North Korea and assisting the country in evading sanctions, the United States Justice Department (DOJ) said in a statement on Friday.
The Singapore-based Virgil Griffith, 36, who works as a researcher with the Ethereum Foundation non-profit and is based in Singapore, stands accused of travelling to the DPRK for a conference on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and providing information on how that technology could be accused to skirt international sanctions.
“As alleged, Virgil Griffith provided highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman was quoted as having said in a statement.
“In allegedly doing so, Griffith jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the president have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime,” he added.
In its complaint, the U.S. government says Griffith was invited to participate in the “Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference,” which took place in the North Korean capital in April and was hosted by the pro-DPRK Korean Friendship Association (KFA).
The price for that nine-day tour was listed at 3200 euros, and also included a two-day conference and day dedicated to “business meetings with Korean companies.”
It is scheduled to take place again next year.
But while a representative of the KFA’s U.S. branch during promotions for that event last year said that U.S. citizens “will be approved” should they want to participate, the U.S. government on Friday said Griffith had ignored warnings not to travel to North Korea.
“Despite receiving warnings not to go, Griffith allegedly traveled to one of the United States’ foremost adversaries, North Korea, where he taught his audience how to use blockchain technology to evade sanctions,” Assistant Attorney…