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Cryptocurrency expert pleads guilty to helping North Korean government use blockchain to evade sanctions

Virgil Griffiths, a cryptocurrency expert, has pleaded guilty to helping North Korean officials evade sanctions through the use of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency in 2019 in the latest update to this case. Griffiths now faces up to 20 years in prison and is set to be sentenced on January 18, 2022. The former Singapore resident was arrested in November of 2019 after a trip to North Korea in which he gave a technical talk at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference. US State Department officials allegedly warned Griffiths not to take the trip and deliver the speech, but he decided to go anyway.

Griffiths pled guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act in a US District Court yesterday. Griffith was accused of working with others to provide cryptocurrency services to North Korea and traveling to North Korea to do so. US Attorney Audrey Strauss stated that Griffith jeopardized the national security of the United States by undermining sanctions put in place by Congress and the President.  The Justice Department also claimed that Griffith planned his assistance beforehand, developing and funding cryptocurrency infrastructure including the ability to mine cryptocurrency in North Korea as early as 2018.

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