Virgil Griffith, the ETH researcher that spoke at a conference in North Korea and therefore allegedly violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, has violated his bail.
According to prosecutors, on May 3rd, 2021, Griffith attempted to access his account on an undisclosed cryptocurrency exchange even though Griffith’s bail conditions explicitly state that “he [Griffith] is specifically prohibited from accessing any of his cryptocurrency accounts.”
On July 9th, the prosecutor wrote to the Judge requesting that Griffith be placed in custody since he violated his bail.
Who is Virgil Griffith?
Virgil Griffith is an ETH research scientist, and in November 2019 he was arrested at the Los Angeles Airport and charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
Griffith was arrested because he gave a speech in North Korea in April 2019 at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference. Prosecutors say that Griffith’s presentation in North Korea provided the audience with information on how to use blockchain technologies and digital currency to circumvent the sanctions that many countries have imposed on North Korea.
“Griffith, a United States citizen residing in Singapore, had sought permission from the U.S. Department of State to travel to North Korea. (Id. ¶ 15.) The State Department denied his request. (Id.) Griffith traveled to North Korea despite the State Department’s denial of his request,” say the case details in “The United States v. Griffith.”
“He secured travel documents by communicating with a member of the DPRK Special Delegation, who in turn instructed Griffith to email the DPRK Mission to the United Nations, which is physically located in this District. (Doc 43, Ex. 1.) Griffith initially emailed the DPRK Mission on February 18, 2019, but forwarded the email to a different DPRK Mission email address on March 6, 2019. (Id., the “March 6 Email.”) Griffith was granted a visa, which was issued at the DPRK embassy in Beijing on April 17, 2019, 42 days after the March 6 Email to the DPRK Mission in Manhattan.”
Regardless of the United States attempt to prevent Griffith from traveling to North Korea, Griffith was able to obtain the necessary visa required to enter the country and present at the conference. Several months later, Griffith was arrested on Thanksgiving day and did a short stint in jail before his lawyer Brian Klein, a partner at Waymaker LLP, took to Twitter on December 2nd to announce that Griffith had been released from jail on $1 million bail.
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.
— Brian Klein (@brianeklein) December 3, 2019
What’s next for Griffith?
Griffith has pleaded not guilty to violating sanctions imposed on North Korea through the International Emergency Economic Powers Act; his trial–the United States v. Griffith– is set to begin on September 7, 2021, at 9:30 am in Courtroom 11D 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY.
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