Ethereum developer and cryptocurrency expert Virgil Griffith was found guilty of helping North Korea evade US sanctions and was sentenced to more than five years in prison.
What led to Virgil Griffith being jailed is his participation in the blockchain and cryptocurrency conference in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, in 2019. With this conference, Griffith allegedly told North Korean officials how they could evade sanctions using cryptocurrencies. In one of the images reflected in the press, it is seen that Griffith wrote "No more sanctions bow" on a whiteboard behind him during the conference.
Former Ethereum developer and Ethereum Foundation member Virgil Griffith, in his defense in New York City on Tuesday, said he "arrogantly and incorrectly" thought he knew better than US officials, the people at his company, and his family, and said he was wrong.
Griffith was sentenced to 63 months in prison for violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The request of Griffith's lawyers to be sentenced to only 2 years instead of 63 months was rejected. The reason for the refusal was "deliberately violating US sanctions".
Griffith, 39, had ignored specific warnings from the State Department about attending the conference in North Korea. He was subsequently arrested in Los Angeles in November 2019 on charges of providing technical blockchain information that he said could be used to help the Kim Jong Un regime avoid money laundering and sanctions.
A photo of Griffith taken at the conference was also shown in court, while the defendant's sentence was announced. In the photo, Griffith is dressed in a North Korean-style uniform, standing in front of a whiteboard with a smiley face on it and the words "No sanctions hurray."
Griffith initially sought up to 20 years in prison, but this was later reduced.
Griffith's lawyers told the judge that their client suffered from obsessive compulsive personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. Again, his lawyers said that Griffith was obsessed with North Korea and was acting in an "arrogant and naive manner".
“I love my country and would do nothing to harm it,” Griffith said in a letter to the court before the verdict.
Prosecutors in the case disagreed with Griffith. Prosecutors argued that Griffith's actions were well-planned and that the US hit the North Korea sanctions program in the heart, so to speak.
Griffith was described by the New York Times Magazine as a "cult hacker" and "the mystery man of the internet" in 2008.