Former Ethereum programmer sentenced to 5 years in prison after the trip to North Korea

Former Ethereum programmer Virgil Griffith was sentenced to 63 months in prison by a US court for his trip to a cryptocurrency conference in North Korea in 2019.


Virgil Griffith’s photo during his trip to North Korea was provided to the court by the prosecutor

Former Ethereum programmer sentenced to 5 years in prison after trip to North Korea

On April 12, a New York court sentenced Virgil Griffith, a former programmer who worked with the Ethereum development team, to 5 years and three months in prison for making a trip to North Korea in 2019. and spoke at a crypto conference in the country.

In September 2021, Griffith agreed to plead guilty to violating international sanctions on North Korea by providing critical technological information during his trip. Although the maximum penalty frame for that crime is up to 20 years in prison, the court decided to apply extenuating circumstances to bring the sentence to 63 months because of the sincere attitude. However, Griffith will have to pay an additional $100,000 in administrative fines.

In April 2019, Virgil Griffith made a trip to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to attend a cryptocurrency conference. In November of the same year, Griffith was arrested by US authorities and has been detained pending trial ever since. However, Griffith’s lawyer insisted in court that he only wanted to spread the advancement of blockchain technology. However, the prosecution presented a lot of evidence, including an image of this programmer wearing a khaki suit like the North Korean leader and standing in front of a sign with “No more sanctions” with his face painted on it, showing that Virgil Griffith’s true purpose is to help North Korea use cryptocurrency to circumvent sanctions.

Cryptocurrencies are increasingly becoming a tool that the North Korean regime uses to earn more foreign currency. According to statistics of Chainalysis, in January 2022, North Korean hackers 2021 successfully stole $400 million in crypto from various sources, an increase of 40% compared to 2020.

The prosecutor also used the situation of cryptocurrency application in the Russia-Ukraine conflict to demand a severe punishment as a deterrent to the public. As reported, the US and many EU countries are concerned that Russia can use crypto to evade sanctions, while Ukraine is actively calling on the international community to support cryptocurrencies in various forms.

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