Virgil Griffith, a former Ethereum programmer, received a 63-month sentence and a $100,000 fine for violating North Korean sanctions.
U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York issued the decision on Tuesday. “What you have here is intentionality, a knowing, willful goal to circumvent the sanctions regime,” Judge Castel said, adding that Griffith’s “desire to advise persons on how to circumvent sanctions” aggravated the offense. In September 2021, Griffith pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act; which prohibits U.S. citizens from exporting “goods, services, or technology” to the DPRK without first obtaining a license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
North Korea Strict Financial Policy
Griffith attempted to travel to North Korea in early 2019 but was denied permission by U.S. authorities. However, in April, he flew to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, for the Blockchain and Crypto Conference.
He presented at the conference while disguised in a North Korean suit on how the government could utilize cryptocurrency to circumvent sanctions and launder money. He demonstrated how smart contracts might go to the country’s advantage in nuclear weapons talks with the U.S. Griffith’s defense team presented evidence of reasons that may have caused him to act irrationally to reduce his sentence. Clinical examination (NPD) diagnosed Griffith with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and narcissistic personality disorder.
Griffiths’ defense team said that his diagnoses of OCPD and NPD explained his “obsession” with North Korea and was perhaps why he ignored warnings from friends, family, and the government about unofficial travel to the nation.
Griffith was detained by the FBI in November 2019, just months after returning from the meeting. Before his arrest, he spoke with the Bureau numerous times about his trip; he showed them photos of himself making presentations at the conference.