- Virgil Griffith was arrested after entering North Korea, despite being denied permission by the US Government.
- Griffith is being represented by Brian Klein, who has also defended Charlie Shrem and Block.one in crypto-related cases.
Virgil Griffith was arrested on Thanksgiving Day by the FBI after he allegedly went against US law to enter North Korea and subsequently teach them about money laundering with the use of Bitcoin. He was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport, and the authorities put out a press release shortly after. Griffith, an Ethereum research scientist, will soon be released from jail pending trial, according to Brian Klein, his defense lawyer.
In a tweet, Klein revealed that he is Griffith’s lawyer and that Griffith is now looking forward to the court date, “when the full story can come out.” The judge presiding over Griffith’s case stated that there were certain conditions that should be met prior to his release. In an article by The Block, the outlet cited a source familiar with the matter, who stated that prosecutors were provided a 7-day stay for an appeal. Klein later stated that bond will need to be posted first, which “usually take a few weeks.”
Officially, the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York confirmed that Griffith was charged with,
“violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by traveling to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) in order deliver a presentation and technical advice on using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to evade sanctions.”
Reports indicate that, while Griffith followed the legal protocol by asking permission to enter North Korea, permission was denied, and Griffith went anyway. A preliminary court hearing determined that prosecutors have enough evidence to establish probable cause.
There seems to be a lot of support behind the scientist, especially from Ethereum developers like Vitalik Buterin. In a tweet this week, Buterin stated that the platform plans to start a petition for Griffith’s freedom.
This year, Klein managed to secure a settlement for Charlie Shrem after the Winklevoss brothers inked a lawsuit against him. Klein is also known for his defense of Block.one, which was ordered to pay a $24 million fee for their unregistered initial coin offering by SEC. The ICO raised $4.1 billion.