Virgil Griffith Handed Five-year Sentence For North Korea Trip

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  • Former Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith has been handed a five-year prison sentence for illegally attending a North Korean blockchain conference
  • Griffith gave a presentation at the 2019 Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference
  • He was accused of advising the North Korean state how to evade sanctions with crypto

Former Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith has been handed a five-year jail term for helping North Korea evade U.S. sanctions. Griffith, 39, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy the day before his trial in September last year and was sentenced yesterday, with his five-year spell working out better than the 63-78 month term he arranged as part of his plea deal. Griffith attended a blockchain conference in Pyongyang in 2019 where he was pictured showing attendees how to evade U.S. sanctions with cryptocurrency.

North Korea Trip Proves Costly

Griffith’s story dates back to April 2019 when he attended the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, despite having been denied a visa by U.S. authorities to travel to the rogue nation.

Instead he smuggled himself in and gave a presentation called ‘Blockchain and Peace’, where he was photographed showing attendees how they could use the technology he was propounding to evade sanctions.

IEEPA Violation Sends Griffith to Jail

Griffith was arrested at Los Angeles National Airport seven months later and was charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”), a charge he initially denied, right up to his supposed court date in September last year. The day before his trial was due to start he instead pled guilty to the charge, and was yesterday sentenced to five years in prison for the trip.

Griffith’s attorney had initially said that his client didn’t tell attendees nothing they didn’t already know, but he was clearly worried enough by the potential for a maximum 20-year sentence if it had gone to trial that he advised his client to take the hit.