UN officials warn against attending North Korea cryptocurrency conference

UN officials warn against attending North Korea cryptocurrency conference
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United Nations officials are reportedly advising people not to attend a cryptocurrency conference in North Korea next month, saying attendance could count as a violation of sanctions.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

In April, North Korea held its first blockchain and cryptocurrency conference, and more than 80 organizations took part, Reuters reported Wednesday.

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A U.S. citizen, 36-year-old Virgil Griffith, who is a cryptocurrency expert, was charged last year with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by giving North Korea information that could help it evade U.S. sanctions at that conference.

"Despite receiving warnings not to go, Griffith allegedly traveled to one of the United States' foremost adversaries, North Korea, where he taught his audience how to use blockchain technology to evade sanctions," Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a press release. 

Griffith, who has a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in November and appeared in federal court in Los Angeles shortly after. He was indicted and released on bail on Thursday. 

IEEPA forbids U.S. citizens "from exporting any goods, services, or technology to the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] without a license from the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control," according to the complaint.

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses encryption techniques to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.