NY court formally indicts Virgil Griffith in North Korea case

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has formally indicted Virgil Griffith in his North Korean connections case. The Ethereum researcher was arrested after landing in the U.S. from North Korea, with his case garnering wide interest from the crypto community.

The court charged Griffith with conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, according to a report by Inner City Press. The IEEPA imposes sanctions on North Korea, prohibiting U.S. citizens from providing technology, services or goods to the Asian country. If convicted of this charge, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Griffith was arrested in November last year after landing at the Los Angeles Airport. The U.S. authorities alleged that he had attended the Pyongyang Blockchain Conference in April, where he had interacted with high-ranking members of the North Korean regime. He purportedly engaged with them on how blockchain and crypto could help the country, including in evading sanctions levied by the U.S. and other world powers.

His arrest angered some in the crypto community who believed that he had been exercising his freedom of speech, Moreover, the information he was providing was readily available on the internet anyway, they argued. Others, led by Vitalik Buterin, called for a petition to have him released from jail.

Griffith’s case wasn’t helped by the discovery of some texts in which he allegedly renounced his citizenship and talked about setting up a money laundering business in North Korea.

He was released days ago on $1 million bond, secured by the homes of some two family members. This was at the second time of asking, with his first request having been denied on December 26. The researcher is now living with his parents in Alabama, with his movement and interactions being restricted by the court.

The Griffith incident isn’t the first time North Korea has been linked with efforts to use crypto to evade sanctions. The country has become notorious for its nuclear weapons development, which in turn, has seen it face several sanctions. To evade them, it has looked into crypto. Some of its efforts include allegedly sponsoring some of the most potent hackers in the crypto space.

North Korean hackers are alleged to be behind some of the largest crypto heists, stealing $2 billion.  

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