Cryptocurrency Programmer Accused of Aiding North Korea Released on $1 Million Bail

Virgil Griffith, an Ethereum programmer accused of advising North Korea on how to using cryptocurrencies to evade sanctions, has been released on $1 million bail in New York.

The case is being covered in-person by the Inner City Press:

“Upshot: for Virgil Griffith, SDNY Judge Broderick is allowing release on bond, to Alabama with his parents as ‘moral suasion.’ Proposes FBI agents escort Griffith to flights.”

Griffith, an American citizen with residences in Singapore and Puerto Rico, was arrested on November 28th at the Los Angeles airport and charged with violating the IEEPA (International Emergency Economic Powers Act).

If found guilty, he could spend upwards of 20 years in prison.

According to a press release from the US Department of Justice, SDNY, the U.S. Department of State denied Griffith a visa to travel to North Korea earlier this year.

Prosecutors say Griffith traveled there anyway last April to deliver a speech called “Blockchain and Peace” at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference.

In the presentation, Griffith allegedly, “discussed how the DPRK could use blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to launder money and evade sanctions.”

He also allegedly, “began formulating plans to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrency between the DPRK and South Korea…”and, “encouraged other U.S. citizens to travel to North Korea, to attend the same DPRK Cryptocurrency Conference the following year.”

According to Inner City Press, Griffith was originally denied bail on December 26th after prosecutors told the judge that Griffith, “had misled Pre-Trial Services about his residence in Puerto Rico,” and had failed to fully disclose his assets.

Because Griffith has access to foreign residences, and because he allegedly told his parents he wanted to facilitate money laundering in North Korea and renounce his citizenship, Judge Barbara Moses denied bail on the 26th.

The matter was appealed within days before Judge Broderick, who told Griffith during proceedings that, “Laws in this country are not suggestions… Assisting foreign governments with money laundering is illegal.”

According to Inner City Press, at the appeal hearing, Griffith’s father offered his house, “as possible security for bond is worth $835,000, with no liens.”

While out on bail, Griffith will be allowed to engage in unmonitored emailing with his lawyer.

During the appeal, Griffith’s lawyer said his client has been suspended from work by his employers at the Ethereum Foundation, an advisory to parties building out the Ethereum network, one of the top 5 cryptocurrency networks in the world.

Like Bitcoin, Ethereum is maintained by loosely affiliated developers scattered across the world who may work independently or under the auspices of private Ethereum startups or advisories like ConsenSys and the Ethereum Foundation.

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