Virgil Griffith, Ethereum developer who was apprehended by US authorities in 2019, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to help North Korea evade financial sanctions, this morning, September 27, 2021 .
As reported by CriptoNoticias at the time, Griffith traveled to North Korea in 2019, where he gave talks to citizens of that country about cryptocurrencies, at a conference organized by the local government.
Upon his return from North Korea, in November 2019, he was arrested at the Los Angeles airport, and released the following month. But on July 21, 2021, Griffith was arrested again for violating the rules of his parole , which prohibited him from accessing his accounts on the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.
This morning, after hearings that have been held since 2020, and after delays and difficulties due to the COVID-19 crisis, Griffith pleaded guilty to intending to help Korea of the North to evade the financial sanctions imposed by the United States against that country.
The hearing took place in the Southern District Court of New York City. According to the InnerCityPress, which covers the events in said court, Griffith was sent back to prison after pleading guilty to the charges in an unexpected move.
«As the lunch boxes were handed over to the jury, Virgil Griffith pleaded guilty. He was returned to jail and will be sentenced on January 22, 2022 “, said the reporter of that medium in a video outside the court.
The documents where Virgil Griffith pleaded not guilty were written yesterday, September 26, but today the change of decision was made untimely for reasons not yet fully clarified.
Griffith would have reached an agreement with the judges to face a sentence that could exceed 5 and 6 years, although the maximum could be 20 years . The case is closed, in the opinion of the judges, InnerCityPress reported.
In addition, it was known that the lawyers of Griffith will now have access to two individual accounts of the Coinbase exchange, from where they will be able to charge for the services they offered their client .
It was also learned that On September 22, a motion by the defense to summon in person to Tju Liang Chua , a lawyer from Singapore who is the General Counsel of the Ethereum Foundation (Ethereum Foundation) was denied. ). The judge also denied that this lawyer testified on video.
Journalist Ethan Lou, who traveled to North Korea with Griffith, assured that the court’s impediment for Griffith to have the testimony of Tju Lian Chua may have influenced the defendant’s decision to plead guilty.
How was the Virgil Griffith case handled?
The Court of the Southern District of New York, that local court of justice, issued a statement this morning detailing Griffith’s guilty plea and the entire context of the case.
As he admitted in court today, Virgil Griffith agreed to help one of our nation’s most dangerous adversaries, North Korea. Griffith worked with others in providing cryptocurrency services to North Korea, as well as assisting North Korea in evading sanctions, so he traveled there to do so. In the process, Griffith played with the national security of the United States, undermining the sanctions that both Congress and the President have imposed to increase pressure against the threat posed by the treacherous North Korean regime.
Audrey Strauss, Prosecutor of the Court.
The document explains that Griffith traveled without permission from his country to North Korea , and since 2018 he was formulating plans to “develop and finance a cryptocurrency infrastructure there, including mining. ”
« Griffith knew that North Korea can use these services to evade and avoid US sanctions, and finance its nuclear energy program and other illicit activities, “it reads.
The authorities claim that The Griffith and his “co-conspirators” instructed attendees on how to use cryptocurrencies to launder money and evade sanctions , answering specific questions from individuals Griffith knew worked with the North Korean government.
It is also stated that Griffith planned to facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrencies between North and South Korea , with knowledge of be committing an infraction.
The court and He explained that the case was being conducted by the International Terrorism and Drug Trafficking Unit of his office, while the FBI and its Counterintelligence Division, among other police entities, participated in the investigative work. Notably, the assistance of the Singapore Police Force , an important security organ of that Asian country where Virgil Griffith resided, is appreciated.
Cryptocurrency ecosystem joins in common cause
In light of today’s statements, several members of the community of Ethereum, among whom is not Vitalik Buterin, its founder, have spoken in favor of Griffith as a activist in favor of open source and freedom .
For example, Ameen Soleimani , CEO of SpankChain, compared Griffith to Aaron Swartz , a developer who took his life in prison after being incarcerated for stealing information from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and who is considered a martyr for freedom of information.
Griffith and Swartz worked together as created res of a software called Tor2Web , which allows to publish information anonymously on the Internet without connecting directly to the Tor network.
The intention of this software, created in 2008, was to provide support to informants who wanted to filter data in a secure way, which at that time was a frequent topic of discussion before the appearance of WikiLeaks that occurred two years before.
For its part, the decentralized finance project based on Bitcoin, Sovryn, assured who defends Griffith’s cause regardless of his affiliation with Ethereum. “If we are all Satoshi, we are also Assange, Schwarz, Snowden, or Virgil Griffith,” they said.
Others have pointed to the exemplary nature of the trial and think it could set precedents for the entire cryptocurrency industry . “Lawsuits like these are where the Law is created, where we find out how strong our civil rights are,” said cryptocurrency attorney Jake Cervinsky, who ends his message with the statement “I’m with Virgil.”