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Crypto Enthusiast Virgil Griffith Sentenced to 5 Years for North Korea Trip

Virgil Griffith, a computer programmer known for his contributions to Wikipedia and the digital currency Ethereum, was sentenced to 63 months in prison on Tuesday for speaking at a cryptocurrency conference in North Korea. .

For him, the April 2019 trip is entirely up to him as a technologist spreading the crypto gospel and engaging others in crypto mining and trading. .

But the coalition sees it as the American way of teaching the warrior thugs in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to dictator Kim Jong-un’s hell on earth how to evade economic sanctions and hoard. cash to build nuclear missiles that threaten the world.

In a federal court in New York City, U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel handed down a heavy five-year prison sentence — as well as a $100,000 fine — marking the end of the investigation. of the FBI which, at times, seems like a heavy-handed crackdown. .

But for North Korea watchers aware of the length of time Kim Jong-un’s henchmen will go snooping around cryptocurrencies and blockchain to get around sanctions and advance the nuclear weapons program. of the country, spreading crypto knowledge can be quite dangerous.

Vikram Thakur, a technical director at Symantec who has tracked North Korea’s financial motives: “North Korea’s obsession and dependence on cryptocurrencies knows no bounds. has been hacked for years, told The Daily Beast.

Under the impact of harsh international sanctions, North Korea has been hacking crypto-related entities for years now to generate revenue for the regime. Between 2019 and 2020 alone, Kim’s hackers stole $316.4 million worth of virtual assets to finance North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, according to a United Nations investigation.

During sentencing, Griffith, now 39, said he was “honestly, arrogantly and falsely” thinking he knew better.

“Everybody warned me. This is a terrible idea,” said Griffith, citing his own “attachment” to North Korea.

Federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York said his actions “hit the heart of the US sanctions regime” and they pointed to several text messages in which Griffith made clear his intentions. His intention is to teach North Korea how to circumvent restrictions.

The judge was particularly moved by a photo of Griffith wearing a dark olive green North Korean military dress next to a whiteboard where he drew a happy face and the words “No sanctions. Right. ”

Judge Castel said “there is a story that says Virgil Griffith was a kind and gentle man who just wanted to speak at a conference… and was persecuted for his actions.”

“That’s not true,” Castel said. “That is not what happened. Virgil Griffith hopes to return home… a crypto hero.”

According to investigators, Griffith wanted to go to the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference in the spring of 2019 but was told not by the US State Department. Instead of staying, Griffith went to China and entered the neighboring authoritarian state. While there, he “engaged in discussions regarding the use of cryptocurrency technologies to evade sanctions and launder money.” Agents at the FBI considered it a clear violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

But when he returned home and was confronted by federal law enforcement officers, Griffith came clean and offered to actually help federal forces uncover his connections and activities in the country. North Korea, according to a source close to Griffith. The source described Griffith’s willingness to cooperate with US intelligence agencies and his offers to become something of a spy asset.

According to his lawyers, after speaking with North Korea, Griffith actually went straight to the US embassy in Singapore, where he was residing at the time, to tell them all about the experience. He also chose to meet with the FBI in Puerto Rico and San Francisco.

But after extensive negotiations, unionists surprised the tech world by arresting him at Los Angeles International Airport on Thanksgiving Day 2019, while Griffith was taking a flight to Baltimore to spend vacation with parents and sister.

A few months later, he was indicted on charges of violating a presidential executive order to keep North Korea out of the international banking system as punishment for repeated threats against the United States.

The arrest immediately sparked criticism, as the community of extremely eccentric and dedicated crypto enthusiasts saw the prosecution as a crackdown on free speech.

Meanwhile, the federal government has played right into that by hiding the incident in secrecy. Therefore, many court records were kept secret that journalists Matthew Russell Leeoperator of the publication Inner City Press, asked the judge to reconsider in a letter noting, “Sealing and withholding here is unacceptable, and beyond what is required even during the trial of the Central Intelligence Agency” by accused Wikileaks leaker Joshua Adam Schulte.

As the case continued, Griffith’s attorneys asserted that his trip was “a trip in good faith.”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/crypto-enthusiast-virgil-griffith-sentenced-to-5-years-for-north-korea-trip?source=articles&via=rss Crypto Enthusiast Virgil Griffith Sentenced to 5 Years for North Korea Trip

Russell Falcon

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