The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) has sentenced a former Ethereum developer, Virgil Griffith to 63 months in jail for conspiring to assist individuals in North Korea to evade sanctions through the use of cryptocurrency. According to the prosecutors, Griffith sold his expertise to North Korean individuals against the provisions of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and Executive Order 13466.
While the letters may differ, these laws largely prohibit any US citizen from exporting any goods, services, or technology to North Korea without a license from the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Despite being aware of these laws, Griffith has traveled to give lectures in North Korea on ways to evade sanctions using crypto. He was also reportedly charged with developing technologies that can help achieve this aim.
Griffith pleaded guilty to all the count charges and his sentence was pronounced by U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel.
“There is no question North Korea poses a national security threat to our nation, and the regime has shown time and again it will stop at nothing to ignore our laws for its own benefit. Mr. Griffith admitted in court he took actions to evade sanctions, which are in place to prevent the DPRK from building a nuclear weapon. Justice has been served with the sentence handed down today,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams.
Once the sentence has been served, Griffith will also be placed on 3 years of supervised release.
Role of Crypto in Evading Sanctions
Crypto developed at a time when a number of countries were battling sanctions from the United States of America and other European countries.
The war between Russia and Ukraine that broke out back in February has placed the latter nation in the crosshairs of the major economic giants around the world. Russia has been slapped with a number of sanctions, and one of the ways it is considering to survive this self-inflicted economic onslaught is to resort to crypto mining and transactions for some of its export commodities.
The US, UK, and the EU have largely introduced modalities to prevent their imposed sanctions from being bypassed through digital currencies, and with the sentence on Griffith, a precedent has been set for American citizens looking to trail a similar path.