US cryptocurrency developer jailed for helping North Korea evade sanctions | Scientific and technical news – News 24 | News in France and abroad

A US cryptocurrency developer has been jailed for five years for helping the North Korean regime evade US sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons program.

Virgil Griffith, 39, pleaded guilty last September to traveling to North Korea – officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – to attend a blockchain conference in the capital Pyongyang in April 2019, although that he was denied permission to go there by the United States. State Department.

At the conference in Pyongyang, Griffith “provided instructions on how the DPRK could use blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to launder money and evade sanctions,” according to the Justice Department. .

Virgil Griffith has expressed interest in giving up his US citizenship. Photo: @VirgilGr/Twitter

The researcher, who lives in Singapore, paid €100 for a visa which he attached to a separate piece of paper in his US passport to avoid creating physical proof that he had been to North Korea.

His presentations “had been approved by DPRK officials,” according to prosecutors, “and addressed, among other things, how blockchain technology…could be used to benefit the DPRK, including in the nuclear weapons negotiations with the United States.

After finishing his presentation, titled “Blockchain and Peace,” Griffith discussed aiding the cryptocurrency exchange between North and South Korea, which he said would violate U.S. sanctions.

After the trip, he also expressed a desire to return to North Korea and apply for another citizenship in the United States.

At the time of Griffith’s guilty plea, U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss said, “As he admitted in court, Virgil Griffith agreed to help one of our country’s most dangerous foreign adversaries, the North Korea.

“Griffith worked with others to provide cryptocurrency services to North Korea and help North Korea evade sanctions, and traveled to North Korea to do so.

“In the process, Griffith jeopardized the national security of the United States by undermining the sanctions that Congress and the President enacted to exert maximum pressure on the threat posed by the traitorous North Korean regime. »

North Korea was sanctioned for its nuclear weapons program

North Korea is increasingly use cryptocurrency to circumvent international sanctions and could use it to help fund programs to build weapons of mass destruction.

This week, the diet fired a short-range missile out to sea off its east coast, according to officials in South Korea and Tokyo.

The scale and scope of North Korean cryptocurrency activity has grown since 2017when sanctions were imposed for its nuclear tests, hampering its ability to legitimately import gas and oil from China, although the nation retains an ability – and a growing interest – in generating huge revenues through cybercrime.

Among the criminal activities, in which the state has engaged around cryptocurrencies, have been the financial motivations ransomware attack that hit the NHS in 2017, as well as the use of cyberattacks to steal millions from cryptocurrency exchanges.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the late leader Kim Jong Il's 80th birthday celebration in front of his statue in the city of Samjiyon, North Korea
Officials in the authoritarian country had approved Griffith’s presentation

An elite hacking unit based in the country is perhaps the only state-sponsored group in the world that has a financially motivated mission, rather than focusing on intelligence gathering for national security purposes.

His operations started in February 2014according to cybersecurity firm FireEye, “and were likely influenced by financial sanctions enacted in March 2013 that blocked mass money transfers and restricted North Korea’s access to international banking systems.”

North Korea has always manufactured drugs, counterfeited currency and engaged in smuggling to support its economy, and FireEye describes piracy as a similar form of activity.

A secret agency known informally as Office 39 has been a key asset of the state generating black market revenue since at least the 1970s.

It is estimated to earn $1 billion a year through illicit activities, including counterfeiting US dollars, producing narcotics, and even smuggling gold.

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US cryptocurrency developer jailed for helping North Korea evade sanctions | Scientific and technical news – News 24 | News in France and abroad

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