• J Markezic and M Bacina

US DoJ charges accomplices to Ethereum developer's North Korea sanctions scheme

Updated: Jun 15



The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has brought charges against two European citizens alleging a conspiracy to violate US sanctions against North Korea and have alleged former Ethereum developer, Virgil Griffith, assisted them.


It is alleged that Griffith - who earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges - conspired with Spanish citizen Alejandro Cao De Benos and United Kingdom citizen Christopher Emms to provide blockchain support to North Korea In violation of US sanctions


US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, said:

In his own sales pitch, Emms allegedly advised North Korean officials that cryptocurrency technology made it ‘possible to transfer money across any country in the world regardless of what sanctions or any penalties that are put on any country.’ The sanctions imposed against North Korea are critical in protecting the security interests of Americans, and we continue to aggressively enforce them with our law enforcement partners both here and abroad.

Recently, the focus of the DOJ has shifted towards crypto related crime. Earlier this year, the DOJ seized $US28 million worth of cryptocurrency from a Canadian national in connection with his use of the NetWalker ransomware platform. According to the DOJ:

Those contemplating evading U.S. sanctions against a foreign government should know the FBI and its partners will aggressively investigate these cases.

Crypto is of course a terrible tool for evading sanctions due to the transparent nature of the transparent and censorship resistant record of transactions. This prosecution is yet another example of this feature of the technology.