According to a statement by the Justice Department, the special projects director of the Ethereum Foundation was arrested at LAX on November 28. He is accused of assisting the North Korean government to come up with workarounds to US sanctions using the Ethereum blockchain.
According to federal officials, Virgil Griffith provided highly technical details to the North Korean regime with full knowledge that they could use the information to evade sanctions and launder money. US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman further alleged that by doing so, Griffith had undermined the maximum pressures campaign enacted by the US president and Congress.
According to Assistant Attorney General John Demers, Griffith traveled to the Hermit Kingdom, which one of the foremost enemies of the US. He engaged an audience where he taught them how to use the blockchain to help them evade sanctions.
What the Federal Complaint States
It is alleged that Griffith is in violation of Executive Order 13466, which prevents any US citizens from working with North Koreans without obtains permission from federal authorities. The complaint states that Griffith traveled to the DPRK and attended the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, where he made a presentation.
At the conference, he and others discussed how the North Koreans could use the blockchain to evade sanctions. During his presentations, various attendees who appeared to be working for North Korea asked him specific questions about crypto and the blockchain. In response to these questions, Griffith discussed in length the technical aspects of this technology.
It is further alleged that once the conference was over, Griffith started working on plans on how crypto could be exchanged between South Korea and the DPRK. It is claimed that he did this in full knowledge that this was a violation of US federal law. It is also alleged that he encouraged other US citizens to attend future crypto conferences in North Korea. Finally, it is alleged that Griffith announced he would renounce his US citizenship and he actively began looking into buying the citizenship of another nation.
If convicted for his crimes, Griffith could spend up to 20 years in jail.