- Ethereum developer files to have sanction violation charges against him dropped.
- Judge rules in favour of the prosecution and the trial will proceed.
- Did Griffith aid the North Koreans to evade US sanctions?
Judge Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York (SDNY) recently rejected Virgil Griffith’s request to drop charges against him. This means Griffith will have to go on trial by jury in September 2021.
The case started in November 2020 when the FBI arrested the former Ethereum developer. This happened after Griffith attended a conference on blockchain and cryptocurrencies in North Korea. Griffith had participated at the summit as a speaker in April 2019.
Griffith shared details that, allegedly, helped the North Koreans to better grasp how digital currencies work. The US courts claim that North Korea can use the data shared to avoid US sanctions.
The data shared is publicly available, Griffith claims. Also, North Korea did not pay Griffith, so he did not give a ‘service’. Besides, the First Amendment should protect Griffith’s right to freedom of speech. On this basis, Griffith’s legal team had filed to have the case dismissed in October 2020.
On the other hand, the court claims that Griffith violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The Act bans the sharing of ‘data’ and ‘data supplies.’ Hence, this leaves Griffith unprotected.
The court also claims to have proof that Griffith intended to set up an ETH node in North Korea. This node was meant to help North Korea to evade US sanctions. The court further says it has a witness who will verify the charges.
In addition, Griffith asked for the bill of details for the case. He claimed that he is still unclear on the charges filed against him. The 6,000-page discovery given by the court is vague, Griffith’s lawyers claimed. The judge, however, seemed to agree with the court and rejected the motion to dismiss all charges.
The case comes at a time when the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OPAC) is moving to tighten sanction efforts over digital currencies against Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and North Korea. A fact that is unlikely to work in Griffith’s favour.