Virgil Griffith, the 36-year-old Singapore resident (and U.S. citizen) who was recently arrested for giving a seminar about blockchain and cryptocurrency in North Korea, allegedly said once that it would be really “cool” if the country learned how to mine ether tokens, according to an unnamed source who boasts “deep knowledge” of the matter.
Did Griffith Want to Help North Korea Mine ETH?
Griffith was arrested over the Thanksgiving holiday at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) after he had failed to get the proper clearance to fly to North Korea. While stationed in the country, Griffith allegedly offered a seminar to listeners explaining how they could use crypto and blockchain to potentially override U.S. sanctions.
Griffith is currently out on bail and has received defense from various members of the crypto community including Vitalik Buterin – the co-founder of Ethereum – who claims that Griffith didn’t do anything wrong, nor did he provide North Korea with information that wasn’t already available via open-source software.
Perhaps the idea of mining ether is what caused Buterin to rush to Griffith’s aid. At the same time, however, the Ethereum Foundation has explained that it had no knowledge of Griffith’s words or his actions, nor do they condone presenting information to one country if it could be used to harm another.
Either way, Griffith’s lawyer Brian Klein has released a statement explaining that his client isn’t guilty of any wrongdoing. The statement reads:
We dispute the untested allegations in the criminal complaint. Virgil looks forward to his day in court when the full story can come out.
There is also a rumor that Griffith was originally planning to send mining equipment to North Korea through the help of a friend in Singapore who was allegedly going to be traveling to the nation’s capital of Pyongyang, but this rumor has not yet been confirmed. He is currently facing charges of presenting technical knowledge to a nuclear state that has (or had) intention to harm the United States. If found guilty, Griffith faces up to 20 years in a federal prison.
Some Believe He Was Wrong
Not every member of the crypto or cybersecurity spaces feels that Griffith is entirely innocent. Ex-NSA expert Priscilla Moriuchi explained that she disagrees with people like Buterin and believes that the knowledge Griffith possessed could have been “valuable to North Koreans” in the long run. She states:
Most North Koreans, even relatively high-ranking government officials, do not have regular and unimpeded access to the global internet, and it is therefore more difficult for them to gain access to knowledge about cryptocurrency that others might find basic or common.
In the past, North Korea has been accused of various crypto jacking efforts and has even played host to some of the biggest cryptocurrency hacking organizations like Lazarus.