Virgil Griffith, a U.S. citizen, has been arrested for providing North Korea information on the use of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to circumvent sanctions, Cointelegraph reports on November 30th.
The 36-year-old Griffith traveled to N. Korea where he supposedly held a presentation on the topic and was arrested upon his return at the Los Angeles International Airport. Griffith has been charged under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and faces up to 20 year in jail. The U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman commented: “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. 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.”
North Korea has already been accused of trying to circumvent crippling economic sanctions by use of technology such as government-funded hacker groups performing cyber and cryptocurrency thefts, with the proceeds lining the government coffers. However, to this day, there is little hard evidence that would undeniably confirm the N. Korean regime truly is behind those crimes. On the other hand, with the U.S. being the main driver and enforcer of those sanctions, one of its citizens caught educating the regime on how to circumvent sanctions could receive a harsh treatment indeed - if the prosecution manages to prove he really did commit what he's being accused of, we could easily see the maximum sentence being passed under pressure to provide an example for others considering such course of action.