Crypto-blockchain expert and developer Virgil Griffith was arrested a couple of days ago for his alleged involvement with the North Korean regime. Griffith is accused of delivering a lecture on blockchain and cryptocurrencies in the sanctioned country, speaking about how smart contracts can be used to bypass sanctions.
Soon after his arrest, a large section of the crypto-blockchain space came forward to show solidarity with Griffith. While some said that Griffith is a good man who works to bridge gaps between people, others said that whatever he spoke in North Korea was already available on the internet. Enrico Talin, CEO of blockchain firm Commerc.io, who started a petition “Free Griffith,” wrote in a Medium post,
“Do anyone honestly think that there is something Virgil Griffith said about the blockchain at the conference that was not already available on the internet? Does Virgil Griffith, as an American Citizen, have the freedom of expressing his opinions or the freedom of speech is limited when we talk about Blockchain? Maybe the US Government honestly thinks that Blockchain technology is dangerous for money laundering, I fully understand their concern. Can anyone give me a specific example of an information -not already public knowledge- that Virgil has passed to DPRK?”
Making his stand evident, Ethereum Chief Vitalik Buterin, one of the most powerful names in the crypto industry, tweeted that he will sign the Free Virgil, adding that he wouldn’t take the easy path of throwing Virgil as it would be wrong.
I refuse to take the convenient path of throwing Virgil under the bus, because I firmly believe that that would be wrong. I'm signing. Reasoning below.https://t.co/E44p5caeJO
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) December 1, 2019
Similarly, Roger Ver, one of the earliest Bitcoin investors and a powerful crypto influencer, also showed solidarity with Griffith, tweeting that sanctions are the act of war, and people opposing sanctions are opposing the war. In fact, the entire crypto community in the United States seems to be in solidarity with Griffith, which is quite encouraging, to say the least. However, the US attorneys have levied heavy accusations on the blockchain programmer, who himself was a resident of Singapore and a citizen of the United States. It is also being said that Griffith wanted to surrender his US citizenship and settle in some other country permanently.
A US citizen is not allowed to travel to North Korea, one of the fiercest adversaries of Washington, and those who wish to travel need prior permission from the US Government. Griffith was denied permission, yet he managed to visit the infamous country. The US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said,
“As alleged, Virgil Griffith provided highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions. In allegedly doing so, Griffith jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the president have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime.”