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Throughout the proceedings, Griffith has had fair support from his family, friends, and colleagues including Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin.
Former Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith is set to be sentenced today in a New York courthouse. His arrest came in November 2019 after organizing a presentation on cryptocurrency and blockchain in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). This was after economic and financial sanctions were imposed on North Korea for a dozen years to force it to denuclearize. The sanction was also in response to its rampant cyber-attacks, human rights violations, and money laundering.
According to reports, Griffith in his presentation taught them how to evade sanctions, which violates the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). It is reported that Griffith does not dispute his traveling to Pyongyang. Before this, he had informed the US State Department of his trip and had been warned not to go. Last September, he pleaded guilty to violating international sanctions against North Korea.
Enforcement of sanctions has been taken seriously by the US government, and it is reported that the judge has been asked to fine Griffith up to $1 million to serve as a lesson to others. His lawyers have petitioned the court to be lenient with Griffith by considering the time already spent in jail and sentence him to two years. They also ask the court to consider three years of supervised release including 270 days of home detention.
Throughout the proceedings, he has had fair support from his family, friends, and colleagues including Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin. In their letter to US District Judge Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York, they describe Griffith as a very generous individual who sees good in everything, an attribute that may have prompted his trip to North Korea.
“His attitudes and actions over the years helped to foster an open-mindedness and an orientation towards cooperation that guide my actions to this day, in a way that was absent from my personality five years ago,” Buterin wrote.
A document presented to the court contains text and emails between Griffith and his friends concerning his trip to North Korea. It also includes transcripts at the conference where he was captured to have said Blockchain could help them circumvent the sanctions imposed on them.
“I work for a group called the Ethereum Foundation. I think the most valuable things we have to offer the DPRK are, number one … blockchain gives you payments that the USA can’t stop,” he said.
The prosecutor also stated in his memo that Griffith’s presentation is serious conduct that could jeopardize the effectiveness of sanctions and endanger the public. Many reports have linked several cyber-attack incidents to North Korea a couple of years before Griffith’s presentation in 2019.