A US federal judge rejected a motion made by the former developer of the Ethereum Foundation to assist North Korea in circumventing sanctions. Prosecutors claimed that Virgil Griffith assisted the regime by providing important information about cryptocurrencies.
Prosecutors say Griffith’s speech is about using cryptocurrency to circumvent sanctions
According to Law 360, the jury will now determine whether Griffith violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Law by delivering a speech at the 2019 Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference.
U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Castel rejected Griffith’s motion because the “short and vague” four-page indictment lacked specific details of his alleged crimes. He made further comments on the matter:
After reviewing the indictment based on the parties’ arguments, the court concluded that the court had provided sufficient notice of Griffith’s allegations to enable him to prepare for the trial and, if necessary, to raise double risks as a defense. In addition, after reviewing the laws governing criminal acts, the indictment stated that the federal crime was not prohibited by the Constitution.
Prosecutors accused the former Ethereum Foundation developer of giving a speech in Pyongyang concerning the use of cryptocurrency to circumvent US economic sanctions.
Griffith was arrested on Thanksgiving in 2019. However, on December 30, 2019, he was released on bail by U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick.
When Griffith was arrested, many cryptocurrency supporters supported his cause, and influencers like John McAfee called the US government “the core of corruption.”
Griffith did not obtain permission from the US Department of Justice to travel to South Korea to attend the meeting. However, according to court documents, he obtained approval from the North Korean United Nations Mission in Manhattan and obtained a visa.
Griffith claimed that his speech was based on publicly available information about the blockchain
Supporters of Ethereum stated that he provided very basic information about blockchain to about 100 North Koreans participating in the speech. In addition, he added that all the content of his participation in the conference is publicly available on the Internet. However, prosecutors believe that North Korea can use the content of his speech to launder money and possibly bypass sanctions.
In addition, the court also revealed a message that Griffith sent to colleagues in 2018 before his speech, which read as follows:
We are happy to conduct an Ethereum visit to North Korea and establish an Ethereum node…it will help them avoid the current sanctions against them.
But the former blockchain developer claimed in his rejection bill that such speech is protected by the “First Amendment” freedom of speech.
As of press time, the trial date for the Griffith case is still set for September 2021.
What do you think of this federal judge’s decision? Let us know in the comments section below.
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