5 Years Punishment in Prison for ETH Developer Who Assisted North Korea To Evade U.S. Sanctions

An ETH developer was sentenced to 5 years in prison. He tried to help North Korea evade U.S. sanctions through blockchain technology.

Virgil Griffith, a former Ethereum developer, was sentenced to 5 years in prison for his role in assisting North Korea. During a conference on blockchain technologies, he tried to help North Korea avoid sanctions from the United States. Despite the prison sentence, he has a fine of $100,000 to pay. 

Griffith Found Guilty

Wednesday’s verdict was delivered by Judge Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York. According to Judge Castel, Griffith’s desire to instruct individuals on how to evade sanctions affected the prison punishment. His efforts to break the sanctions were intentional. Thus, it adds to the criminality of his actions, making the offense more serious than it otherwise would have been.

This is not the first time that Griffith has been found guilty. In September 2021, Griffith agreed to plead guilty. The reason was for breaking the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. It is illegal for people in the United States to send goods, services, or technology to the DPRK (North Korea) without permission from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Griffith’s Presentation at the Conference

Following his activities, Griffith went to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, in April 2019. The reason for this visit was the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference. Furthermore, he went there even though he did not get permission from the U.S. government earlier that year.

Griffith presented talks at the conference about how the government could escape sanctions by utilizing cryptocurrencies to launder money. In addition, he also presented examples of how smart contracts could help the country in nuclear-weapons talks with the U.S.

Regarding his sentence, Griffith’s defense team attempted to present evidence of circumstances that may have caused him to act irrationally. This included a psychological assessment that argued Griffith had Obsessive-Compulsive and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.