Ethereum Foundation Cryptocurrency scientist had been arrested and charged with aiding North Korea by using the blockchain technology to evade sanctions and launder money according to a US official spokesperson.
Virgil Griffith is a 36 years old blockchain scientist at the Ethereum foundation and he’s been arrested on Thursday at the Los Angeles International Airport and was charged with conspiring to evade the US sanctions against the regime of North Korea dictator, Kim Jong-un based on a statement gotten from Manhattan U.S Attorney, Geoffrey Berman.
Griffith who is a US citizen lives in Singapore and attended a blockchain and cryptocurrency conference held in Pyongyang back in April despite being warned by the State Department.
“Griffith provided highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions,” Berman said in a statement Friday. He “jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the president have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime.”
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Back in 2008, Griffith had been the subject of a New York Times Magazine profile which described him as a “Cult Hacker” and dubbed him the “Internet Man of Mystery”. He had worked with programmers and activist Aaron Swartz to develop Tor2Web which allows dark-websites to be viewed on standard internet browsers. According to his Linkedin profile, Griffith, a California Institute of Technology Ph.D., says he moved to Singapore in 2015 because he “concluded the best place for new growth” is Asia.
Griffith had also tweeted in the past about North Korea in a number of times and even opined that emerging multinational standards on cryptocurrency regulations would create a market opportunity for the isolated regime to launch an exchange back in June 29. He had also tweeted a picture of his visa to visit North Korea.
Though the charges were filed in New York, Griffith is scheduled to first appear in federal court in Los Angeles sometime Friday. While media outlets requested comments from his company, Ethereum didn’t immediately reply to any questioning or requests. Even his attorney, Galia Amram didn’t immediately respond to phone calls and email messages.
The charges brought against Griffith didn’t include Ethereum as the company’s name wasn’t mentioned in the complaint that said “he was employed by an entity that functions as an open-source platform for the development of blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies,” including “Cryptocurrency-1.” Ethereum has a cryptocurrency it calls Ether.
Griffith is facing an offence that could land him in a 20 years jail time if found guilty of all the charges brought against him. North Korea on the other hand had been accused several times for hacking banks and stealing money through the internet. There is obviously no cooperation between the US government and the North Korea and the US doesn’t want anyone to jeopardize it’s sanctions against the nuclear power state.