Preaching blockchain in North Korea gets an American in trouble at home

Elias Hubbard
December 3, 2019

An American man has been arrested for allegedly trying to help the North Korean government evade USA economic sanctions by using blockchain technology.

You can read the full criminal complaint against Griffith below.

Apart from the impending Istanbul hard fork scheduled to take place in the next few days, the Ethereum Foundation has been making headlines over the arrest of Virgil Griffith, an Ethereum Research Scientist.

In a statement to CNN Business after the Monday hearing, Griffith's attorney said his client has been released from jail pending trial.

In a tweet posted on December 3, Klein stated that his client disputes the "untested allegations in the criminal complaint" and had been temporarily released from jail pending his trial. The blockchain is powered by a decentralized network of computers that work on the same task. Since it's a permanent record, and because the ledger is held by many entities, it's almost impossible to hack. North Korea is specifically mentioned as a threat in executive orders.

"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.

The DOJ's criminal complaint says Griffith taught an audience in North Korea earlier this year how to use blockchain - the technology behind cryptocurrency - despite the State Department denying Griffith permission to travel there. He was arrested in Los Angeles on November 28 for allegedly violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a crime which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Although the crypto community seems divided on whether Griffith deserves to be punished, there is definitely some concern that now that Ethereum has got the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, Griffith's allegedly illegal actions might put all cryptoassets and crypto exchanges under much greater regulatory scrutiny, which could hurt blockchain development and cryptoasset prices in the long term.

Virgil Griffith, the Ethereum ETH developer arrested last week after allegedly traveling to North Korea to give a talk on cryptocurrency, will be released from prison pending trial after a judge ruled there was enough evidence to move a case against him.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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