Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith lodges appeal against allegations of sanction infringement

Griffith states that his Blockchain lecture in North Korea was based solely on publicly available information.

Virgil Griffith, former development researcher at the Ethereum Foundation, on Thursday filed an appeal against the accusation that he willfully disregarded US sanctions against North Korea. He justified his objection on the grounds that the prosecutor’s office of the Southern District Court of New York cannot name any concrete crime on his part.

37-year-old Griffith was arrested by FBI agents on 28 November 2019 after he had attended an IT conference in North Korea in April of that year.

The public prosecutor’s office subsequently accused him of participating as a kind of service to the North Korean government, through which he allegedly passed on „valuable information“ to members of the government. He also participated in „talks“ on the use of block chain technology to circumvent sanctions.

Griffith replied that the presentation he gave at the conference was merely „very general and contained only information that is publicly available anyway“.

In this respect, the court now asks whether the mere planning and holding of the presentation can be interpreted as a violation of US sanctions.

In his objection, Griffith also claims that he was not paid for his participation and that he did not sign any contract for consulting services. Accordingly, his presentation was not a „service“ for the North Korean government. Furthermore, he considers his right to free speech to be protected by the American Constitution.

Finally, Griffith argues that his presentation is protected by an exception rule in international law that legitimises the sharing of „information“ and „information materials“.

This is what is stated in his contradiction:

„If Mr. Griffith’s presentation is not classified as a dissemination of ‚information‘, then what is?“
As Cointelegraph had reported, the case divides the crypto-community.

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin defended Griffith in December:

„I don’t think that what Virgil has done has helped the North Korean government to do anything evil. He gave a lecture based on publicly available information about open source software. He did not provide advanced knowledge of hacking. […] Furthermore, Virgil did not derive any private advantage from his participation. […] I hope that the USA takes care of the really important things and not computer scientists giving lectures“.