Virgil Griffith

Former Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges filed against him by the US Attorney’s office in relation to a speech he gave at a blockchain conference in North Korea in April 2019.

Griffith was arrested on Thanksgiving at Los Angeles International Airport after the FBI alleged that he breached the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) in traveling to North Korea without authorization and providing knowledge on how the country can utilize blockchain technology to launder money and evade sanctions. Earlier this month, the former Ethereum employee was indicted by Grand Jury over the claims, and, if found guilty, could face up to 20 years imprisonment.


Brian Klein, the attorney representing Virgil Griffith, said his client “should not have been indicted,” and that “we are going to vigorously contest the charge and look forward to getting all the facts in front of the jury at trial.” Assistant US Attorney Michael Krouse said the government has already produced an initial set of documents for discovery, including statements Griffith made to the FBI, and that a second set of documents should be produced within the next two weeks.

Klein asked Judge P. Kevin Castel if the defense would be able to obtain records relating to any interviews the FBI held with other people who attended the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference last year, particularly any attendees who might be able to refute the allegations against Virgil Griffith. “We anticipate these other attendees will exonerate our client,” Klein said.

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However, the prosecution argued that the defense had no grounds to make such a request but said the government would comply with production requirements under federal rules of civil procedure. Judge Castel did not make a firm ruling on the request but told Klein, “If there’s an application under [the rules], I would expect you and encourage you to make it as soon as possible.”

The next hearing in Griffith’s trial is scheduled for March 17.

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