As blockchain and cryptocurrency enter into a new phase of maturity and increase its overall use, there is the need to educate the general public, lawmakers and business people about the benefits of both as well as its possible applications. This has been seen with a number of universities around the globe offering courses in blockchain technology the vast amounts of online resources available for everyday users as well as the increased discussion about cryptocurrency and blockchain at a regulatory level even as governments are beginning to explore blockchain use and their own cryptocurrencies.
It seems one man’s quest to spread blockchain education has gotten him in trouble as it was reported that Virgil Griffith was arrested for traveling to the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea to educate them about the use of blockchain and cryptocurrency for circumventing sanctions.
According to the November 29, 2019 reports, Griffin was arrested as Los Angeles international airport upon arrival and he has been charged for the violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison if he is found guilty.
“As alleged, Virgil Griffith provided highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions. In allegedly doing so, Griffith jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the president have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.
The provisions of the IEEPA prevent any US citizen from traveling to North Korea without approval from the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control. Griffin had previously been denied but went against this decision and held an education session within North Korea which then violated sanctions.
“There are deliberate reasons sanctions have been levied on North Korea. The country and its leader pose a literal threat to our national security and that of our allies. Mr. Griffith allegedly traveled to North Korea without permission from the federal government, and with the knowledge of what he was doing was against the law. We cannot allow anyone to evade sanctions, because the consequences of North Korea obtaining funding, technology, and information to further its desire to build nuclear weapons put the world at risk. It’s even more egregious that a U.S. citizen allegedly chose to aid our adversary,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr.