Dec 3, 2019 at 09:00 UTCUpdated Dec 3, 2019 at 09:01 UTC
Virgil Griffith speaks at Consensus: Singapore 2018, photo via CoinDesk archives
Sanctions Weren’t Discussed at North Korea Crypto Conference, Attendee Says
An Italian citizen who attended the North Korean cryptocurrency conference in April says the U.S. government’s charges against his friend and ethereum developer Virgil Griffith are overblown.
Griffith has been charged under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act for allegedly providing technological training that would make it easier for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to evade U.S. economic sanctions. He is in federal custody for providing “highly technical information to North Korea,” as U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman put it in last week’s announcement.
“The sanctions were not a topic at all,” said Pietrosanti, who attended the event on the same trip as Griffith, the Ethereum Foundation staffer arrested by the FBI on Thanksgiving Day.
According to Pietrosanti, the conference took up two days of a larger trip that allowed a small group of non-North Koreans to have a look at the so-called “hermit kingdom.” The visit’s full itinerary can be viewed on the state website.
“I always wanted to go there, in North Korea,” Pietrosanti told CoinDesk. As a sanctioned country, the place inspires a lot of curiosity for anti-censorship activists like him. “As you always want to fight against control, it’s very interesting,” he said.
Pietrosanti said he’s known Griffith for nearly a decade, first meeting as participants in the TOR community developing the open-source anonymized web browser that makes surveillance all but impossible for anyone but state-level actors.
Griffith’s attorney, Brian Klein of Baker Marquart, issued a statement after the accused’s first court appearance Monday.