Blockchain developer and friend of Vitalik Buterin, Virgil Griffith, has been granted bail at $1 million after his arrest in late November 2019.
Griffith, 36, travelled to the clandestine East Asian state to share a conference speech entitled ‘Blockchain and Peace’, which was delivered at the DPRK cryptocurrency conference.
However, US officials have accused Griffith of sharing his highly technical blockchain expertise with North Korea, in a bid to assist them in evading international sanctions.
If that is indeed the case, Griffith has broken the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). Griffith previously ignored official warnings not to travel to the dictatorship.
Despite the severity of the charges against Griffith, fellow developer Vitalik Buterin voiced his support for his close friend and colleague at the time, saying he refused to “take the convenient path of throwing Virgil under the bus’.’
Initial trial and bail
As reported by Coin Rivet in December, Griffith was arrested upon his return to the USA following a joint investigation by the FBI and the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.
Reporting from inside the courtroom on the December 30 hearing, independent journalist Inner City Press tweeted that the prosecution thought Griffith was a potential flight risk and that his conference speech was produced directly for the North Korean regime – not for the ‘private economy’.
AUSA Kraus: In North Korea, there is no private economy. Conference was by and for regime.
Another senior AUSA walks in.
Inner City Press: Where's US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman?
— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) December 30, 2019
One of the most worrying factors for the prosecution and national security experts, was Griffith’s apparent distaste for the American way of life and his citizenship of the USA.
Griffith’s lawyer, Klein, admitted his client was considering voluntarily renouncing his US citizenship, and also moving to the Caribbean island of St Kitts, but decided not to pursue either.
Klein said Griffith was “verbose and provocative”, but hasn’t been charged with serious criminal offenes such as money laundering.
Judge Broderick, presiding, hit back at Griffith’s self-proclaimed love for North Korea, saying: “If you were in North Korea, you wouldn’t be having a bond hearing”.
Eventually, Griffith was granted bail at $1 million.
Griffith’s father offered his house as security for bond, worth $835,000, and it’s believed Griffith’s sister also secured the bond with her own property. Griffith’s father was in attendance at court.
It was also reported that Griffith has been suspended from his duties at the Ethereum Foundation, although the organisation had remained supportive of his case.