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Cryptocurrency Community Divided Over Developer's Arrest For 'Helping' North Korea

Neer Varshney

The cryptocurrency community on Twitter is divided on whether the U.S. authorities acted fairly in arresting Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith over his visit to North Korea.

What Happened

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in a statement on Friday said that it arrested Griffith at the Los Angeles International Airport on Thanksgiving Day.

Griffith is charged for “traveling to [North Korea] to deliver a presentation and technical advice on using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to evade sanctions” in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the statement said.

“Griffith jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the president have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime,” John Demers, the Assistant Attorney General of the National Security Division said in the statement.

Griffith traveled to Pyongyang Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Conference in April, even after his request to do so was turned down by the U.S. authorities, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation alleged in a complaint filed with the Justice Department, as noted by CoinDesk.

Crypto Community Reacts

In response to the arrest, Enrico Talin, a blockchain startup CEO and an acquaintance of Griffith, called on Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and others to start a petition and oppose Griffith’s arrest.

“[I truly,] honestly think Virgil is someone that wants to bridge gaps, [he] is a man of peace,” Talin said in a blog post.

Buterin concurred with Talin, saying he can’t take the “convenient path” of throwing Griffith “under the bus.”

“I don't think what Virgil did gave [DPRK] 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,’” Buterin explained his reasoning for defending Griffith.

John McAfee, a founder of security software company McAfee, LLC and a prominent proponent of the cryptocurrency industry, expressed similar sentiments.

“See what our Government has become - a government corrupt at the core, declaring publicly available information a national secret,” McAfee said on the arrest.

Others agree with the U.S. government’s decision, highlighting the dangers of sharing any kind of information with the oppressive regime of the Kim dynasty in North Korea.

“I see people saying a talk in [DPRK] could help the people against the government. But an approved public talk means you are interacting with the dictatorship, giving them knowledge that helps them. And what do they do? They oppress 25 million people, and they've done so for decades,” prominent industry journalist Laura Shin said in a series of tweets defending the government’s decision.

“[For] someone who seemed to be fascinated by [DPRK], [Griffith] seemed to have almost no understanding of it,” Shin said.


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