The defendant and others had conspired to breach the prohibitions of the act when Griffith provided services to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea without obtaining approval from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, according to the indictment. The developer is also alleged to have attempted to evade U.S. legal requirements during his actions.
Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith has been released on bond shortly after being indicted over allegations relating to a conference appearance in North Korea last April.
In a court document filed in the Southern District of New York on Jan. 7 (see below), Griffith is charged by a grand jury with one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
A DOJ spokesperson previously told CoinDesk that Griffith’s release had been delayed until he could satisfy his bail conditions.
The document adds that one or more of the alleged co-conspirators is expected to be brought to New York and arrested.
Griffith was arrested on Thanksgiving for allegedly attending a cryptocurrency conference hosted by the North Korean government and sharing his expertise in using cryptocurrency.
According to a complaint brought against Griffith on Nov. 21, he had sought approval to attend the conference, which was denied. He then traveled to the conference anyway.
“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,” John Demers, an assistant attorney general for national security, said at the time.
After the indictment was released, prosecutors requested that Griffith be sent to his parents in Alabama immediately after being released on bond, rather than be allowed to stay in a New York hotel room until his arraignment. They also asked that Griffith not be allowed to keep his passport card while traveling, claiming that this “poses a serious risk” that he may flee the country in a letter.
Griffith’s attorneys, Brian Klein and Sean Buckley, responded that they disagreed with the government’s characterizations and “were very surprised” by the letter. It was not immediately clear whether Griffith will be allowed to remain in New York through his arraignment.
“Virgil should not have been indicted. We are going to vigorously contest the charge and look forward to getting all the facts in front of the jury at trial,” said Klein in response to the indictment.
If found guilty, Griffith faces up to 20 years in jail. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also wants Griffith to forfeit any property or money obtained for his appearance in North Korea.
Griffith had served as the head of special projects for the Ethereum Foundation but has been suspended since his arrest, according to a previous report.
Ethereum Dev Virgil Griffith Pleads Not Guilty to Violating North Korea Sanctions
Griffith was arrested in November on allegations he spoke at a cryptocurrency conference in North Korea last year, where he allegedly taught his audience how to use cryptos to evade sanctions. A complaint published by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York claimed Griffith detailed how crypto could be used to launder money, and may even have tried to facilitate a transaction between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea.
Griffith’s attorney, Brian Klein, said in a statement that Griffith “should not have been indicted.”
“We are going to vigorously contest the charge and look forward to getting all the facts in front of the jury at trial”, he said at the time.
If convicted, Griffith would face a maximum of 20 years in jail.
Assistant U.S Attorney Michael Krouse said Thursday the government has already produced an initial set of documents for discovery, including statements Griffith made to the FBI. The government anticipates making a second production within two weeks.
Klein, Griffith’s attorney, asked Judge P. Kevin Castel if the defense would be able to obtain records pertaining to any interviews the FBI held with other conference attendees, particularly any attendees who might be able to refute the allegations. “We anticipate these other attendees will exonerate our client,” Klein said.
Krouse said the defense had no basis to make the request, but the government would comply with production requirements under federal rules of civil procedure.
Judge Castel did not make a firm ruling on the request, instead telling Klein, “If there’s an application under the rules, I would expect you and encourage you to make it as soon as possible.”
Klein and Krouse declined to comment after the hearing.
A status update hearing is tentatively scheduled for March 17.
Griffith attended Thursday’s hearing in a gray suit.