Virgil Griffith, an Ethereum Foundation researcher arrested for giving a presentation in North Korea, is to be released on bail pending trial.
Brian Klein of Baker Marquart, a law firm named as 2019’s top litigation boutique in California, publicly announced he is representing Griffith, stating:
“I now represent Virgil Griffith and am very pleased that today the judge found that he should be released from jail pending trial.
We dispute the untested allegations in the criminal complaint, and Virgil looks forward to his day in court, when the full story can come out.”
That suggests Griffith plans to plead not guilty, with a trial now to be arranged and a jury to adjudicate on facts if they are disputed.
We asked Klein how much was put down for his release on bail and a number of questions, including confirmation on how he plans to plead, but have received no response in time for publishing.
There’s unconfirmed suggestions he is representing Griffith pro-bono in one of the most political case since bitcoin’s invention.
Griffith is accused of aiding North Korea in sanctions avoidance by giving a presentation on Blockchain and Peace in Pyongyang and by making a symbolic transfer of one eth from North Korea to South Korea.
The only specified technical discussion, as stated in the testimony agains Griffith, was that of Proof of Work vs Proof of Stake.
Apparently he mentioned smart contracts too, with that presumably being the highest level of “expertise” provided to North Korea, although what might be revealed at trial is not clear.
The transfer of one eth technically probably does breach sanctions, and demonstrating how ethereum is global and can be sent to anywhere in seconds without anyone’s permission can be “tutoring.”
North Korea however became aware of this unique quality of crypto sometime in early 2018 or maybe late 2017.
The government is accused of hacking to steal bitcoin and there are suggestions they have been mining for some time.
So it’s not the case that Griffith revealed something they did not know if all he revealed was the above. To the contrary, the fact they held such conference in North Korea suggests knowledge and awareness of cryptos in the country has reached a fairly decent level and certainly that of: you can transfer eth to anywhere in the world.
That means this country is perhaps not quite as isolated as it is perceived, with it having connections to China through which crypto knowledge might have first entered the country.
Presumably quite a lot is smuggled inside, perhaps through even South Korea, same as people in West Berlin used to smuggle punk music to East Berlin.
That smuggling played a significant role in the eventual fall of the Berlin wall and the general peace that now greats a United Europe.
Update: This article originally stated he has been released on bail. That seems to have been a misunderstanding, he was to be released on bail.