Ethereum Dev Virgil Griffith’s Attorney Files Motion to Dismiss Charges of Aiding North Korea

Virgil Griffith’s lawyer has filed a motion to dismiss the U.S. government’s charges that the Ethereum developer violated sanctions law by speaking at a North Korean cryptocurrency conference.

The motion, filed by attorney Brian Klein, claims the government’s late-2019 indictment of Griffith doesn’t “specify any alleged overt facts” and contains no actual allegation of fact.

Griffith was arrested last November on charges he violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and executive orders by going to North Korea and speaking during a crypto conference, where he allegedly taught government officials how to use the technology to bypass economic sanctions.

Related: OFAC Warns That Firms Helping Victims With Ransomware Payouts Risk Violating Its Rules

It’s the first sanctions case in a U.S. court involving cryptocurrency, and as such is likely to be closely watched. The results could hold a precedent for other cases the government might bring under the law, as the U.S. continues adding individuals and entities to its sanctions lists.

Read more: USA v. Virgil Griffith: What We Know (and Don’t) in the Bombshell Crypto Sanctions Case

Klein’s motion to dismiss claims the President of the United States does not have the authority to prohibit the transmission of information, and that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Treasury Department division overseeing sanctions enforcement, has “issued no regulations and published no guidance to clarify the definition of ‘services'” that are otherwise prohibited under executive orders.

“It appears that the government’s theory is that, by attending and speaking at a blockchain conference in Pyongyang, Mr. Griffith provided ‘services’ because he ‘provided the DPRK with valuable information on blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies, and participated in discussions regarding using cryptocurrency technologies to evade sanctions and launder money,'” the motion said.

Related: Iran Is Ripe for Bitcoin Adoption, Even as Government Clamps Down on Mining

According to Klein, Griffith only provided information that was already in the public domain.

The next step in the case is likely a government response to Klein’s motion.

Related Stories

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Latest Cryptocurrencies Videos


CoinDesk is the leading digital media, events and information services company for the crypto asset and blockchain technology community. Its mandate is to inform, educate and connect the global community as the authoritative daily news provider dedicated to chronicling the space. Founded in May 2013, CoinDesk reaches millions interested in blockchain technology thru its website, social media, newsletters, podcasts and video. CoinDesk created the original reference rate known as the Bitcoin Price Index which is widely sourced in the media including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, CNBC and many others on a daily basis.

Learn More