Virgil Griffith, the head of Ethereum’s special projects division, will be released from jail after his bond is posted, his legal representative said. Griffith was arrested last week for participating in a conference in North Korea, where he allegedly taught the audience how to leverage blockchain technology to evade sanctions.
Ethereum developer accused of aiding North Korea gets new legal representation
An Ethereum developer made news last week after being arrested on charges of conspiracy. Virgil Griffith , the head of Ethereum’s special projects, was accused of assisting the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK) in avoiding sanctions imposed by the U.S.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Griffith used his knowledge and expertise to teach a North Korean conference how to leverage cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to evade sanctions.
Griffith was arrested last week at the Los Angeles International Airport for violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and was set to appear before a court this week. Griffith will be represented by Brian Klein of Baker Marquart , a veteran lawyer in the crypto industry.
Klein is known for having represented some of the most notable names in crypto, including early Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem and Marcus Hutchins. Earlier this year, Klein negotiated a settlement between Shrem and the Winklevoss twins and reduced Hutchins’ sentence to a year of supervised release.
The crypto community reacted positively to the news about Griffith’s new legal representation, with many saying Klein was the “best in the space.”
Spreading the word about Ethereum could cost Griffith 20 years in prison
According to Klein, Griffith is set to be released from prison once his bond is posted. As the process could take as much as a few weeks to complete, Griffith most likely won’t see his trial begin until 2020.
The 36-year old Singapore resident is up for a tough fight—he is accused of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. In the unsealed court documents , Griffith is said to have traveled to North Korea in April this year, where he attended and presented at the “Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference,” despite being denied permission to travel to the country.
He is said to have provided the government of North Korea with “valuable information on blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies” and discussed “using cryptocurrency technologies to evade sanctions and launder money.”
Apart from that, Griffith reportedly told an FBI agent that he began formulating plans to facilitate the exchange of a cryptocurrency, most likely Ethereum, between North Korea and South Korea. The court documents implied that Griffith acknowledged that this would violate sanctions against the communist state.
According to The New York Times, he also announced his intention to renounce his American citizenship and has researched how to purchase citizenship in other countries.
Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, openly supported Griffith, saying his “geopolitical open-mindedness” was a virtue.
Buterin wasn’t the only one who said that Griffith only shared “publicly available information.” 2600, a hacker magazine where Griffith was a contributing writer, issued a statement saying his arrest was “an attack on all of us,” The New York Times wrote .
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