Virgil Griffith, one of the oldest Ethereum developers, was arrested by the FBI on November 28 at Los Angeles International Airport. He is accused of traveling to North Korea to help the regime use blockchain technology to circumvent US sanctions.
According to statements by the Manhattan Prosecutor’s Office, Griffith visited “one of the most important opponents of the United States of America” to attend and present a paper at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference. The State Department did not grant him permission to do so and warned him not to move.
In addition, the Ethereum Foundation member is accused of making plans “to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrencies between DPRK and South Korea.” This would violate sanctions against North Korea because it would have taught the public how to use blockchain technology to circumvent those sanctions.
Virgil Griffith is accused of violating IEEPA
Following the arrest, William F. Sweeney Jr., FBI Deputy, said:
“We cannot allow anyone to evade sanctions because the consequences of obtaining funding, technology and information from North Korea to continue their desire to build nuclear weapons endanger the world. It is even worse that an American citizen has chosen to help our opponent. “
Griffth is charged with conspiracy to violate IEEPA, which has a maximum term of 20 years in prison.
The developer claimed that his presentation included public information, and the Ethereum Foundation distanced itself from the incident:
“The foundation is aware of the recent allegations against Virgil Griffith. We can confirm that the Foundation was not represented in any way in the events presented in the file of the Department of Justice and that the Foundation did not approve or support any such trip, which makes it a personal problem. We continue to monitor the situation as it develops. “