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Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith charged for helping North Korea to evade sanctions

Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith charged for helping North Korea to evade sanctions
(CoinDesk archives)

The U.S. DOJ accuses Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith of helping North Korea (DPRK) evade sanctions and now face trial by jury. The DOJ’s demands that a speech the Ethereum dev gave at a Pyongyang crypto conference in 2019. It helped Kim Jong Un’s administration of the DPRK avoid sanctions and launder money.

According to Law360 on January 29, Griffith’s plan to release the criminal charges have now been dismissed by a New York federal judge. The Ethereum developer’s motion claimed to remove charges as the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment guards his right to free speech. Griffith also demanded an explanation on the charges by a Bill of Particulars, insisting he could not adequately equip his defense. The four-page statement against required specific detail is planning his criminal conduct. The New York judge has also rejected Griffith’s request for clarity.

Virgil Griffith faces charges for violating IEEPA

Moreover, on November 29, 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York declared that Griffith undergoes ‘Conspiracy to Violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).’ He traveled to the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) to deliver a presentation and technical advice. Moreover, he elucidated on employing cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to circumvent sanctions.

According to the official complaint, Griffith had explicitly requested permission to travel to North Korea to give the presentation on blockchain technology. However, he did not receive the approval to travel to North Korea. Precisely, the document describes that Griffith had been assisting in producing a crypto exchange within North Korea and South Korea. He was aware that this would disrupt U.S. sanctions against the DPRK. A statement from January 2020 was put forth against Griffith, blaming him for disrupting the IEEPA (International Emergency Economic Powers Act).

IEEPA is a U.S. federal law that allows the President to control external variables that may endanger national security. Griffith visiting a blockchain conference in North Korea has been sufficient to provoke the U.S. Moreover, the DPRK has long been deemed a high-risk nation by the U.S.

Further, Griffith has claimed his speech was guarded. He described that his presentation included the concept that one could quickly acquire from a Google search. The judge also wrote that Griffith did not receive remuneration for the speech and should have no presence on the jury’s ruling. If Griffith is liable for the allegations, the Ethereum developer may face imprisonment for 20 years.

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