US Arrests Ethereum Developer for Training North Koreans to Evade Sanctions

Virgil Griffith, who has lately been working at the Ethereum Foundation, has been arrested for allegedly going to a conference in North Korea and sharing his expertise in using cryptocurrency.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced Friday that Griffith was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Thanksgiving Day.

“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,” John Demers, an assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.

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The complaint specifically cites violations of International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The announcement said that Griffith should appear in a court in Los Angeles today.

In April, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), also known as North Korea, held the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference. According to a complaint brought against Griffith, he sought approval to attend the conference which was denied. He then traveled to the conference without permission, allegedly by way of China.

The complaint against Griffith was authored by a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation named Brandon M. Cavanaugh. He notes that on May 22, 2019, the two participated in what Cavanaugh calls a “consensual interview.”

The complaint asserts, “At the DPRK Cryptocurrency Conference, GRIFFITH and other attendees discussed how blockchain and cryptocurrency technology could be used by the DPRK to launder money and evade sanctions, and how the DPRK could use these technologies to achieve independence from the global banking system.”

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The affidavit does not name any specific cryptocurrency, only asserting Griffith had expertise in…

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