Virgil Griffith Should Return to Jail Pending Trial, Prosecutors Tell Judge

The Ethereum developer was arrested in 2019 and charged with helping North Korea get around U.S. economic sanctions.

Virgil Griffith, the Ethereum developer charged with violating U.S. sanctions law in North Korea, has violated his bail conditions and should be returned to jail, U.S. prosecutors wrote to the judge presiding over the case.

  • Griffith has posed a serious flight risk since his arrest, the prosecutors wrote in their request, and his recent attempt to access one of his frozen cryptocurrency accounts containing $1 million has increased that risk to an “unacceptable level.”
  • Griffith was arrested in November 2019 and charged with helping North Koreans circumvent U.S. economic sanctions via cryptocurrency.
  • Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York allege Griffith violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by giving a speech in April 2019 at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference on how to use cryptocurrency to get around U.S. sanctions. 
  • Griffith’s lawyers has argued his First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution protected him and that he did not render North Korea any “services” because he received no compensation for the speech.
  • The government’s lawyers seek a conference on their request at the earliest possible time.
  • Jason Gottlieb, a partner and head of Morrison Cohen’s White Collar and Regulatory Enforcement practice group, took to Twitter to criticize the government’s request to have Griffith return to jail to await his trial, calling the prosecutors “incredibly heavy handed and punitive.”

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