NEW YORK – Federal prosecutors have charged a cryptocurrency expert with violating economic sanctions against North Korea by presenting at a conference there this year after the U.S. government denied his request to travel to Pyongyang.
Virgil Griffith, 36, a U.S. citizen who lives in Singapore, was arrested Thursday at Los Angeles International Airport.
Federal prosecutors said the self-described former hacker with a doctorate in computer science secured a visa through “a (North Korean) diplomatic mission facility” in Manhattan for 100 euros and then traveled to the country through China in April.
At the conference, Griffith talked about how North Korea could use cryptocurrency to “achieve independence from the global banking system,” a criminal complaint says.
The criminal complaint says Griffith planned to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrency between North and South Korea and encouraged other U.S. citizens to attend the conference next year.
“Griffith announced his intention to renounce his U.S. citizenship and began researching how to purchase citizenship from other countries,” the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan said.
The U.S. attorney, Geoffrey Berman, said Griffith “provided highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions.”