A few weeks ago, Virgil Griffith was arrested by US law enforcement agencies. Mr. Griffith was accused of assisting North Korea by giving them information on how they could use cryptocurrency to evade US sanctions. He was recently released on bail and he will be celebrating the New Year outside a jail cell.

The Charge Sheet

According to the justice department, Griffith violated federal law when he visited North Korea and gave a presentation on how to use blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. It is alleged that senior North Korean officials who asked him questions on how the blockchain could be used to circumvent US sanctions attended his talk. His earlier bail application had been denied on December 26.

According to a local media report, Griffith is free to leave jail on condition that he deposits a $1 million bond and stays within his parents’ property. It is alleged that his sister and father offered their houses as collateral for the bond.

Griffith was earlier denied bail due to claims that he had renounced his US citizenship and he planned to move to North Korea where he would run a money-laundering operation. However, his lawyer argued that Griffith did not take any official steps to renounce his citizenship. Furthermore, he argued that Griffith had not been charged with money laundering but with violating US sanctions laws.

Since his arrest, the Ethereum Foundation has cut all official ties with him but the members continue to offer him moral support through various social media posts. For instance, Vitalik Buterin made it clear in a tweet on December 1 that he was supportive of Griffith.

His Arrest

On November 26, US authorities arrested Griffith and he was charged with conspiracy to violate US sanctions law, specifically the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. This was after it was alleged that he visited North Korea where his goal was to provide them with technical knowledge on how they could circumvent US sanctions. It is alleged that he gave out this information during the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, which took place in April 2019. If prosecuted successfully, Griffith could spend up to two decades in prison.

According to US officials, Griffith had been warned numerous times not to travel to North Korea, which is considered one of the top enemies of the US. However, he ignored the warnings and traveled to the Hermit Kingdom anyway. Griffith is 36 years old and he resides in Singapore. He received his Ph.D. in 2014 from Caltech for Computation and Neural Systems.

North Korea and Crypto

Various law enforcement agencies around the world have accused North Korea of looking to crypto to evade tough economic sanctions. In general, the association of crypto and nefarious actors does not augur well for the future of cryptocurrency.

As long as it continues to appear that only nefarious actors can find real-world use cases for crypto, finding legislative support will be difficult. It is up to those in the crypto community to come up with real-world use cases that help to fend off this narrative.

Image Source: Flickr 

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