Virgil Griffith – the Ethereum research scientist who gave a seminar in North Korea despite lacking permission from the United States government – has been formally indicted and is awaiting trial.
Griffith Is Set to Face Charges
Griffith has been charged with assisting a nuclear state and an enemy of the U.S. in learning about how to utilize blockchain and cryptocurrency against American authorities. He is also facing charges for violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
Griffith’s case came about in early December when it was revealed that he had provided a detailed seminar to North Koreans in early 2019 allegedly regarding how to mine ether and cryptocurrencies and utilize digital assets to undermine U.S. sanctions. The seminar was given as part of the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference.
The U.S. Department of State had denied Griffith the ability to travel to the country for the seminar and warned him that there would be consequences should he go against their decision. Nevertheless, Griffith took a chance and engaged with listeners at the conference. He was later arrested in late November at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and has been held by authorities ever since.
At the time of his arrest, U.S. attorney Geoffrey S. Berman explained in a statement:
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.
Bail was posted for Griffith at $1 million, and authorities explained that he would be granted bail if his family could secure a $1 million bond. At the time of writing, he has still not been given his freedom. A report explains:
He has not satisfied his bail conditions yet. Still awaiting the approval of his co-signers and the posting of properties as collateral.
Strangely, Griffith has been suspended from the Ethereum Foundation, yet members of the organization are standing by his side, including Vitalik Buterin – the co-creator of the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap. In a statement last December, Buterin suggested that Griffith hadn’t committed any wrongdoing, and simply provided North Koreans with information that was already common or public knowledge.
I don’t thin what Virgil did gave DRPK any kind of real help in doing anything bad. He delivered a presentation based on publicly available info about open-source software. There was no weird hackery or ‘advanced tutoring.’
Either way, Griffith appears to be doing the time for his willingness to defy the U.S. At this moment, a trial date has not been set for the former Ethereum developer.
Despite being an American citizen, the 36-year-old Griffith resides in the nation of Singapore.