Ethereum Foundation programmer Virgil Griffith, who was recently arrested for violating United States sanction laws against North Korea, has gotten his release orders from jail, pending the conduction of an official trial on his case.
This was made known by his attorney Brian Klein, who posted a tweet announcing he would handle the programmer’s defense.
I now represent Virgil Griffith and am very pleased that today the judge found that he should be released from jail pending trial. We dispute the untested allegations in the criminal complaint, and Virgil looks forward to his day in court, when the full story can come out.
— Brian Klein (@brianeklein) December 3, 2019
Klein confirmed that Griffith would be release summarily, adding that he is looking forward to his day in court when the truth will be revealed. A separate source familiar with the matter disclosed that Griffith had met several conditions for bail, and the judge saw no reason to keep him behind bars. Now, his prosecutors have been given a week to prepare an appeal against the ruling.
Violating Sanction Laws
The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) charged Griffith for helping North Koreans use cryptocurrencies to evade U.S. sanctions.
The US citizen Virgil Griffith violated IEEPA by traveling to North Korea in order to deliver a presentation and technical advice on using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to evade sanctions. https://t.co/lwzvIL6C0Y
— Ruslan Trad (@ruslantrad) December 3, 2019
According to the provisions of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), any U.S. citizen or organization that is looking to export goods or services to North Korea is to get a license from the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control.
However, as a complaint from the Department of Justice shows, the developer had traveled to North Korea after being warned severally against the trip. Upon his arrival there, he allegedly attended a blockchain conference, where he taught his audience how they could evade sanctions by employing blockchain technology.
In September, a Vice News report revealed that Pyongyang is currently looking at the possibility of developing a state cryptocurrency, as t hopes to evade the crippling economic sanctions pose on it by the West and navigate what it believes to be the “U.S.-dominated global financial system.” Given that the country has also been found to have conducted targeted scams and cyber attacks against several financial corporations across the world, any tech or finance expert gong there- especially after being expressly forbidden by the government- will raise eyebrows.
Overwhelming Industry Support
As expected, the developer has gotten quite a lot of support from the crypto space. Last week, Enrico Talin, the chief executive of blockchain platform Commerc.io, wrote a blog post requesting that Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin should start a petition to support Griffith. Replying to that, Buterin claimed that Griffith was at fault for defying the government’s orders, while also pointing out that the Ethereum Foundation had provided no assistance to his trip. However, he expressed his belief that Griffith didn’t a North Korea in any way that would constitute a threat to national or global security.
Legal representation from Klein also a great thing. He has previously worked for notable crypto names such as Erik Vorhees and Charlie Sherm, and he is a qualified prosecutor with extensive knowledge in the tech field. He also chairs the American Bar Association’s blockchain, digital currency, and ICO national institute.
It’s unclear if his defense attorney was paid for by Buterin or the Ethereum Foundation, but Griffith can at least rest easier knowing he has some legal muscle behind him as he prepares to take on the U.S. government.