A U.S. digital foreign money specialist residing in Singapore has been arrested and criminally charged with assisting North Korea use cryptocurrency and blockchain technological know-how to sidestep American sanctions, the U.S. Department of Justice stated on Friday. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Virgil Griffith, 36, travelled to North Korea with the aid of China in April to attend the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, in spite of being denied permission via the U.S. Department of State to go.
Griffith, who has a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, gave a presentation on topics preapproved by means of North Korean officials, supplied valuable technical information, and engaged in talks about using cryptocurrency technology to avoid sanctions and launder money, prosecutors said. A lawyer for Griffith did now not right away respond on Friday to requests for comment. Griffith was once arrested on Thursday at Los Angeles International Airport, and charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which carries a most 20-year jail term. Prosecutors said Griffith was expected to show up on Friday in Los Angeles federal court.
His case was once introduced one day after North Korea launched two short-range rockets off its jap cost, beforehand of a year-end closing date that Pyongyang had given the White House to exhibit flexibility in stalled denuclearization talks. According to a criminal complaint, Griffith’s presentation titled “Blockchain and Peace” described how blockchain science including a “smart contract” should assist North Korea. Prosecutors said Griffith later started work on making it less difficult to pass cryptocurrency between North Korea and South Korea and motivated other U.S. citizens to journey to North Korea, together with for the equal cryptocurrency conference in 2020. The criticism said a search this month of Griffith’s cellular telephone with his consent uncovered an Aug. 6, 2019, message to an unnamed individual, known as Individual-2, indicating a need to send some cryptocurrency between North Korea and South Korea. The case is U.S. v. Griffith, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and No. 19-mag-10987.