Former Ethereum Developer Sentenced for Attending North Korean Blockchain Conference

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Photo - Former Ethereum Developer Sentenced for Attending North Korean Blockchain Conference
Virgil Griffith, a former developer at the Ethereum Foundation, landed in hot water. Following his decision to travel to North Korea in 2019 to attend the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, he was indicted for the violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
The court ruled that Griffith, who pleaded guilty to one of the conspiracy charges in September, violated international sanctions against North Korea. While he had been facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1m fine, the prosecutors decided to reduce both to over five years and $100,000 respectively. Despite being denied permission by the US Department of State to go, Griffith traveled to North Korea via China, explaining to the local audience how to use blockchain technology for money laundering and sanctions evasion. According to the blockchain forensics firm Chainalysis, North Korean hackers stole almost $400 million worth of crypto in 2021. Pyongyang is believed to spend this money on its nuclear ambitions, meaning that Griffith effectively helped it pinpoint leeways for funding its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The most important feature of blockchains is that they are open. And the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] can't be kept out no matter what the USA or the UN says,
Griffith said during the presentation, according to prosecutors.
Commenting on the sentence, Griffith's lawyer said that while it was disappointing, the judge "acknowledged Virgil's commitment to moving forward with his life productively and that he is a talented person who has a lot to contribute". In a separate statement, US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that "justice has been served". The Ethereum Foundation said at the time of Griffith's arrest that it had not approved or supported his travel to North Korea. Neither Vitalik Buterin nor Joseph Lubin, co-founders of Ethereum, made comments on the court’s verdict. Previously, Pascal Gauthier, CEO of Ledger, which offers a USB-like digital wallet for people to hold cryptocurrencies outside of exchanges, has issued a warning against the European Parliament’s plan to track and trace people’s cryptocurrencies – a move that is considered to be an attempt to close loopholes for the Russian companies trying to circumvent western sanctions.