Ethereum Developer Arrested In The US for Providing Crypto Knowledge to North Koreans
Last Friday, the Thanksgiving Day turned out to be a nightmare for Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith as the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York arrested him at the Los Angeles International Airport.
Griffith was arrested on charges of conducting a conference and sharing his expertise and crypto knowledge in the sanctions-laden rogue state of North Korea. In the last few years, countries like North Korea and Venezuela, facing heavy sanctions, have largely resorted to using cryptocurrencies and evade sanctions.
John Demers, an assistant attorney general for national security said: “Despite receiving warnings not to go, Griffith allegedly traveled to one of the United States’ foremost adversaries, North Korea, where he taught his audience how to use blockchain technology to evade sanctions”.
Earlier in April 2019, the North Korean government conducted a Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference in the capital city of Pyongyang. Back then, Griffith sought an approval to attend the conference which was denied. Later, with the help of China, Griffith still managed to travel to the conference without proper permission from US agencies.
Griffith has been working with the Ethereum Foundation since October 2016, as per his LinkedIn page. However, the Foundation has distanced itself from Griffith saying that he went there on personal capacity. Clarifying its position to CoinDesk, the Ethereum Foundation wrote: "We can confirm that the Foundation was not represented in any capacity at the events outlined in the Justice Department’s filing, and that the Foundation neither approved nor supported any such travel, which was a personal matter.”
On the other hand, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has expressed solidarity with Griffith. In support of Griffith, Buterin seems to have signed a petition a blog post penned by blockchain firm CEO Enrico Talin.
In a series of tweets, Buterin explained the reason for his support. He wrote: “Geopolitical open-mindedness is a *virtue*. It's *admirable* to go to a group of people that one has been trained since childhood to believe is a Maximum Evil Enemy, and hear out what they have to say. The world would be better if more people on all sides did that.”
Buterin further added that he doesn’t think that Griffith helped the North Korean government in doing anything bad neither did he made any personal gain from it.