KEY POINTS

  • Virgil Griffith pleads not guilty for violating IEEPA
  • Griffith was officially indicted on Jan. 9
  • Griffith's attorney said in a statement that Griffith "should not have been indicted"

Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith pleaded not guilty to the charges of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

Griffith is accused of teaching North Koreans at a conference in Pyongyang about eluding U.S. sanctions through cryptocurrencies and was formally indicted on Jan. 9 for violating IEEPA. Should Griffith be proven guilty, he could face up to 20 years in jail, according to a report by Coindesk.

Brian Klein, Griffith's attorney, stated that his client 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," Klein said at the time.

A resident of Singapore, Griffith traveled to North Korea to teach blockchain and crypto to the audience at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference. The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control, however, advised against the trip due to economic sanctions on DPRK. Still, Griffith didn't heed the warnings and flew instead to China to get to the reclusive state.

On Thanksgiving day last year, Griffith was apprehended by U.S. authorities at the Los Angeles International Airport. A complaint from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York states that Griffith, "taught his audience how to use blockchain technology to evade sanctions" and went to DPRK despite several warnings.

Griffith's arrest impelled a petition to free him that even Vitalik Buterin signed. The petition states that most of what Griffith taught in the conference is already available online and questioned if an American's freedom of speech doesn't encompass the topic of blockchain.

Buterin even tweeted at that time, "I don't think what Virgil did gave DRPK any kind of real help in doing anything bad. He *delivered a presentation based on publicly available info about open-source software*. There was no weird hackery "advanced tutoring."

"And if there was any indication that it was going in that direction, I would have reacted much more strongly against it," added Buterin in a series of tweets.

A month later, Griffith was eventually released to his parents in Alabama under a bail bond worth $1 million. The next hearing is tentatively scheduled for March 17.

Ethereum Ethereum sign on Joe Lubin's desk at ConsenSys headquarters in New York. Photo: Vincent Balestriere/IBT