Ethereum researcher Virgil Griffith to be released on bail

Cheryl Sanders
December 3, 2019

That question is at the heart of a criminal case against Virgil Griffith, a rabble-rousing computer scientist who federal authorities say ran afoul of USA laws meant to isolate and punish the rogue state when he gave a talk this year at a technology conference in Pyongyang.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, Griffith used his knowledge and expertise to teach a North Korean conference how to leverage cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to evade sanctions.

Federal agents have arrested a U.S. computer programmer for giving a talk at a cryptocurrency conference in North Korea on blockchain technology.

According to the complaint, Griffith reached out to the U.S. State Department but his permission was denied due to economic sanctions against North Korea. It is alleged that Griffith explained how to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrency between North Korea and South Korea despite knowing that it would violate USA sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"We can not allow anyone to evade sanctions, because the consequences of North Korea obtaining funding, technology and information to further its desire to build nuclear weapons put the world at risk", FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in the news release. However, Griffith's tweet from earlier this year seems to back the Foundation's statement.

Griffith discussed his presentation with another individual via a messaging app. "Individual-1 asked, in sum and substance, what interest North Koreans had in cryptocurrency".

"The sanctions were not a topic at all", Fabio Pietrosanti, who claims to have known Griffith for nearly ten years, told CoinDesk.

"I refuse to take the convenient path of throwing Virgil under the bus", said Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin on Twitter, "because I firmly believe that that would be wrong".

A spokesman for the foundation said the group disavowed any connection to Griffith's North Korea trip.

Renowned trial attorney Brian Klein has revealed he will represent Virgil Griffith, the developer recently arrested for participating in a blockchain conference in North Korea. Buterin also says Griffith's talk at the conference focused only on "publicly available info about open-source software". "There was no weird hackery 'advanced tutoring'".

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