Virgil Griffith, an Ethereum (ETH) developer, has pled guilty to a federal allegation of conspiring with North Korea to violate US sanctions law after nearly two years of the legal battle between Griffith and U.S. prosecutors.
Griffith pled guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which prohibits citizens of the United States from exporting technology and intellectual property to communist nations, in New York on Monday.
Griffith may face up to six and a half years in prison if he accepts the plea offer. In January 2022, formal sentencing is likely to begin.
After visiting a seminar in Pyongyang, North Korea earlier in the year, Virgil, a senior researcher with the Ethereum Foundation, was arrested in November 2019.
Prosecutors claim that the developer delivered a lecture on how to use blockchain technology to launder money and evade sanctions.
Griffith’s plea deal came just as jury selection in New York was about to begin. According to The Wall Street Journal, the trial is expected to cover a wide range of issues, including free speech and North Korea’s relations with the US.
According to journalist Ethan Lou, who claims to have been in North Korea with Griffith at the time of the presentation, it’s unclear what prompted the developer to plead guilty. He elaborated:
“Unclear what new development caused this guilty plea. The paperwork was signed only yesterday. One possible reason is the barring of the remote testimony of an Ethereum Foundation lawyer.”
Griffith’s legal team attempted to dismiss the accusations in October 2020, but prosecutors firmly rejected their claims. The arguments were labelled “unavailing” by lawyers representing the US government at the time.