Ethereum analyst pleads guilty to conspiring against U.S. sanctions

Famous Ethereum researcher Virgil Griffith was sentenced to 20 years in prison for assisting the North Korean government in eluding U.S. sanctions during a blockchain conference, jeopardizing American coercion on the Democratic People’s Republic.

The researcher gave an admittance of guilt for colluding to break the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, strictly preventing the export of goods, technology services to North Korea by any American citizens.

During the blockchain conference, Griffith colluded with representatives on means to break away from imposed U.S. sanctions. The accused submitted his plea of guilt in federal court in New York before facing trial.

The accused is considered one of the leading research analysts and developers at a non-profit establishment Ethereum Foundation that strictly focuses on popular cryptocurrency Ether. Griffith is always knowns for his indulgence in a multitude of tech endeavors in business and academic fields, with the most infamous creation of a “dark web search engine,” his LinkedIn profile states.

Griffith voyaged to North Korea for the “Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference” in April 2019. There he presented an elaborate demonstration revealing how blockchain technology and cryptocurrency could be implemented to launder illegal funds while evading U.S. sanctions, according to a criminal complaint.

The offender’s plan focused on enabling and assisting decentralized transactions between North and South Korea, a move that will help both countries evade restrictions while preserving their influence in the cryptocurrency market.

While some might argue of the practicality and determination of U.S. sanctions over other countries, the U.S. has long defended its approach of using economic pressure, especially with North Korea, due to its negligence to accommodate to the U.S.’ demands – a country that regards itself as the epicenter of global power.

According to the Justice Department, Griffith’s shift of loyalty to North Korea could have hindered and obstructed the U.S. tactics to impose harsh pressure against the country. 

“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,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.

 “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,” he added. 

As for his sentence, Griffith could be facing 20 years in prison for his violation of U.S. laws. The “sincerely remorseful” researcher’s sentence is scheduled for January 2022.