On Friday the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) announced the arrest of Ethereum Foundation member Virgil Griffith for allegedly “assisting North Korea in evading sanctions” by teaching “his audience how to use blockchain technology.” After the Manhattan U.S. Attorney revealed the news, the cryptocurrency community erupted in outrage.
US Attorney’s Office Arrests Virgil Griffith for Teaching Blockchain Technology to North Koreans
The U.S. Attorney SDNY and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced charges against Virgil Griffith on November 29 detailing that the American citizen violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). Griffith is a well known member of the cryptocurrency community and worked with the Ethereum Foundation.
U.S. law enforcement agencies allege that Griffith traveled to North Korea (DPRK) and gave “a presentation and technical advice on using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to evade sanctions.” “Despite receiving warnings not to go, Griffith allegedly traveled to one of the United States’ foremost adversaries, North Korea, where he taught his audience how to use blockchain technology to evade sanctions,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said. “By this complaint, we begin the process of seeking justice for such conduct.”
Ostensibly Griffith also traveled to the DPRK to present at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference despite the Department of State denying him permission to travel to DPRK. “At no time did Griffith obtain permission from OFAC,” the SDNY press release stressed. U.S. citizens and businesses are not permitted to transact with persons and companies on the OFAC list. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list is a record of individuals and companies that are tied to targeted or sanctioned countries.
“At the DPRK Cryptocurrency Conference, Griffith and other attendees discussed how the DPRK could use blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to launder money and evade sanctions,” the SDNY statement stressed. Griffith was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on November 28 and reportedly attended court the next day.
‘A Government Corrupt at the Core’
After the cryptocurrency community caught wind of the news about Griffith’s arrest many people were angered at the U.S. government’s actions. “Teaching about blockchain technology is illegal now in the Land of the Free,” remarked Shapeshift’s CEO Erik Voorhees on Twitter. Some people mentioned how Griffith openly tweeted about getting a Visa to DPRK and that the U.S. government took notice. “Virgil’s situation was avoidable to be sure — But this may be a sign of things to come,” Coin Metric’s founder Nic Carter opined. “Ultimately anyone writing code or creating resources for crypto can be alleged to be helping hostile jurisdictions avoid sanctions under this loose standard, whether or not they intend to,” he added.
The notorious U.S. presidential candidate John McAfee said that the American government was dishonest. “Virgil Griffith arrested for teaching North Korea how to avoid U.S. sanctions by using cryptocurrency and the Blockchain. See what our Government has become — A government corrupt at the core, declaring publicly available information a national secret,” McAfee exclaimed. Another person responded to McAfee’s statement and said: “Arrested for opposing the Wall Street/London Cartel.”
The 36-year old Griffith is a resident of Singapore and citizen of the United States and his charges carry a maximum term of 20 years in prison if convicted. “The charge in the Complaint is merely an accusation,” explain the law enforcement agencies handling the case which include Counterintelligence, Export Control Section, and the Southern District’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.
What do you think about the U.S. government’s charges against Virgil Griffith? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.
Image credits: Shutterstock, Twitter, U.S. Attorney SDNY, Wiki Commons, and Fair Use.
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