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Why Ethereum Developer Virgil Griffith May Be Imprisoned For Giving A Blockchain Presentation

Why Ethereum Developer Virgil Griffith May Be Imprisoned For Giving A Blockchain Presentation

Sameer Balaganur

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Ethereum Foundation’s special projects researcher, Virgil Griffith has been arrested for allegedly violating the IEEPA (International Emergency Economic Powers Act) by giving a presentation on decentralised application and blockchain platform- Ethereum in North Korea.

The United States Department of Justice in their statement said that Griffith, 36, travelled to North Korea to deliver a presentation on using cryptocurrency and blockchain tech to evade sanctions. According to experts, he may face prison time for this. 

The U.S. Attorney said that Virgil provided highly technical information to North Korea that can help it to launder money and evade sanctions from the U.S. In simple terms, the U.S doesn’t want North Korea to find a way to escape from under its thumb. These sanctions are something which keeps the pressure on North Korea. 

North Korea is deemed as the country which poses a real threat to the U.S national security and its allies, so it is concerned with every move that North Korea tries to make to cut loose from the U.S, even if it is a blockchain expert.

Maybe it doesn’t sound like a big deal when one is scrolling through the headlines but, the blockchain technology and cryptocurrency may have a way to escape the sanctions imposed by the U.S, which is the reason why Venezuela and Iran have been working on to create a National Cryptocurrency. 

Ethereum Foundation Remains Indifferent To The Arrest

Now what U.S attorney’s office says about Virgil Griffith is that he presented a decentralized solution and discussed a way for North Korea to resist the sanctions imposed upon it. The U.S department claimed that Griffith travelled to North Korea despite the State denying him permission to travel. This means that Griffith knew that travelling to North Korea and presenting the paper violates the sanctions against North Korea.

In a statement, the Ethereum Foundation described Griffith’s travel to North Korea as a personal matter.” The statement said, “The Foundation is aware of the recent charges filed against Virgil Griffith. We can confirm that the Foundation was not represented in any capacity at the events outlined in the Justice Department’s filing and that the Foundation neither approved nor supported any such travel, which was a personal matter. We are continuing to monitor the situation as it develops.”

Why Escape The U.S Control?

So, we all know since World War 2 ended, U.S Dollar has been the world’s dominant reserve currency because of which the vast majority of cross-border trade is conducted in dollars. This gives the U.S immense power over other countries when it comes to politics and financial aspect. 

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Now, losing access to dollar-clearing and correspondent relationships with banks in New York would mean a death sentence to most financial institutions, and in 2012 the U.S used this power or the leverage to oust Iran from the nuclear sanctions. Which meant Iran couldn’t transfer money across the globe which curbed Iran’s financial as well as nuclear ambitions.

Because of the power, the U.S holds on account of its currency, emerging powers like China, with some Asia regulatory experts have been calling for an alternative international reserve currency.

Now, to develop some resistance to these sanctions that the U.S imposed, countries like Iran, Russia, Venezuela are looking to build blockchain technology. Each country plans on claiming a statewide cryptocurrency to eventually dissolve the effects of Dollar.

Now, what’s important is to know is that the leading tech behind this is open-source, free to use. For example, Iran announced this August that is was planning for a national cryptocurrency. Which will run on an open-source platform for enterprise blockchain system like Hyperledger Fabric. Hundreds of firms around the world are involved with Hyperledger blockchain projects. Another example is Venezuela. 

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