American cryptocurrency specialist arrested for lecture in DPRK


Illustration: Wikimedia   U.S. authorities arrested hacker and cryptocurrency market activist Virgil Griffith after a lecture in North Korea. American law enforcement agencies considered his lecture an attempt to transfer technology to the DPRK, and therefore a violation of the sanctions regime. The file with the prosecution is published on the website of the US Department of Justice.   Virgil Griffith is an American developer and hacker working on the Etherium cryptocurrency. In April 2019, Griffith traveled to the DPRK for a blockchain conference and delivered a lecture there. In an accusation paper, an FBI agent claims that in a lecture, Virgil told the DPRK authorities how North Korea could launder money bypassing the sanctions regime using blockchain and cryptocurrencies.   The FBI document also contains other details of Griffith’s trip. He has American citizenship, but resides in Singapore. Griffith tried to get permission from the State Department to travel to the DPRK, but was refused. Then he traveled to North Korea in transit through China. The FBI claims that Griffith was fully aware that he was violating US laws.   Griffith did not try to hide his journey. He posted travel documents on Twitter, and upon arrival he appeared on a call to speak with an FBI agent. Griffith also provided the authorities with the opportunity to check his phone. As a result, authorities charged Griffith with violating the sanctions regime, and on November 21, New York Southern District Judge Sarah Netburn signed a warrant for his arrest. Griffith was arrested on Friday, November 29, at the Los Angeles airport.   Griffith was joined by another prominent cryptocurrency creator, Etherium creator Vitalik Buterin. In his microblog, he wrote that Griffith could hardly really help the DPRK in any “bad deeds.” Buterin emphasized that Griffith’s lecture was based on materials from open access.           The FBI claims the opposite – according to agency officials, Griffith could have trained North Koreans to manage cash flows using cryptocurrencies, bypassing sanctions. The bureau checked the correspondence of the developer. When asked by a friend about why the DPRK cryptocurrencies, he suggested that they are needed to circumvent sanctions. Griffith also told an unnamed friend that he wants to transfer a unit of some cryptocurrency (the FBI suggests that it is about Etherium) between South Korea and North Korea. To a friend’s question: “Does this violate US laws?” Griffith answered: “Yes, violates.”   The United States imposed sanctions against the DPRK in 2008. In 2016, Donald Trump tightened the sanctions regime by banning any exchange of US technology and goods with the DPRK. In addition to the presidential decree, the OFAC (Office of the Foreign Assets Control) forbids American citizens, wherever they are, from providing legal, financial, brokerage, banking, transportation or other services to citizens and the DPRK government. In May, the U.S. arrested the Wise Honest cargo ship for allegedly violating the sanctions regime. US authorities claimed that the cargo ship was exporting coal from the DPRK and was bringing heavy machinery, with payments being made in dollars through US banks. A ship arrest warrant was issued in the same Southern District of New York.   Virgil Griffith’s lawyer Brian Klein on his Twitter said that the judge decided to release his client on bail. However, this does not remove the charges from Griffith, and he will still appear in court. But the programmer will wait for the process to be free, and not in prison.           Klein already has experience in representing the cryptocurrency market leader in court. In 2018, he became an attorney for Charlie Shrem, one of the active Bitcoin users, entrepreneur, and founder of the Bitcoin Foundation. In September 2018, a lawsuit against him was filed for $ 32 million from Internet businessmen of the Winklevoss brothers. They accused Shrem of stealing “thousands” of bitcoins from them in 2012.   The Southern District Court of New York has become famous for its specialization in cryptocurrency cases. The institution recently decided that Pavel Durov and two other Teleram employees should appear in court and testify about the issue of digital Gram currency tokens. The issue in 2019 was stopped by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The Commission claims that Telegram and TON sold 2.9 billion digital tokens to 171 customers, including 1 billion in the United States. One SEC employee explained that the issue was stopped because Telegram and TON did not provide investors with sufficient information about the “financial condition of the companies, risk factors and management, which are required by the securities laws.”    UFO Care Minute This material could cause conflicting feelings, so before writing a comment, refresh something important in your memory:    How to write a comment and survive  Do not write offensive comments, do not get personal.  Refrain from obscene language and toxic behavior (even in a veiled form).  To report comments that violate the rules of the site, use the “Report” button (if available) or the feedback form