Last month, the cryptocurrency industry was rocked by the news of Virgil Griffith, the Ethereum core researcher who was arrested based on suspicions that he was helping North Korean hackers use crypto to circumvent U.S sanctions.
Sadly, despite the massive support he’s gotten from the community, it seems the ouch for his release has hit a snag.
Griffith: Core Dev and Suspected DPRK Enabler
Griffith was first arrested last month, after law enforcement agencies accused him of trying to fly to North Korea to reach hackers and government officials how they could circumvent economic sanctions with cryptocurrencies. In an announcement from the Department of Justice at the time, the 36-year-old Singapore resident was charged with providing the country with technical information that could have been used to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA)- sanctions that were placed on North Korea by the American government in a bid to place pressure on the authoritarian regime.
While he had previously tried to travel to North Korea, he was denied permission by the Department of State. Still, he went against the government’s decision to speak at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference. His charges now carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence.
Griffith’s arrest was followed by a massive outcry from several names in the industry, including Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin. In a tweet on December 1, the Russian-Canadian developer urged the American government to show “strength rather than weakness” on the issue, adding that while Griffith did speak at a blockchain and Crypto conference in Pyongyang, he probably only gave information that is available for everyone.
Sadly, the hopes that Griffith could get bail have now been all but dashed, as new details surrounding his circumstances have surfaced. In an Email to Cointelegraph on Friday, James Margolin, the chief public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, explained that Griffith is still in detention, while a preliminary hearing date for his case has been set for a January 9.
Inner City Press also reported on Thursday that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) had denied the bail option for the developer. As the report noted, Griffith had renounced his American citizenship via text messages to his family members. The texts also reportedly included the intent to conduct money laundering activities in North Korea.
North Korea’s Crypto Affinity Grows
As for North Korea, the country continues to remain shady in its operations. Reports surfaced this year that Pyongyang has made up to $2 billion from deploying attacks on crypto exchanges and financial institutions in other countries in a bid to fund its weapons programs. While the government has pushed back against such reports, its links to digital assets have waxed stronger.
In September, Vice News reported that the country is in the early stages of developing a cryptocurrency in the order of Bitcoin. As the report explained, the asset will help with evading sanctions and finding a workaround for the U.S.-dominated global financial system.
Per the report, Alejandro Cao de Benos, the official in charge of crypto conferences across the country, explained that the asset will be more like Bitcoin, adding, “We are still in the very early stages in the creation of the token. Now we are in the phase of studying the goods that will give value to it […] No plans to digitize the [North Korean] won for now.”