Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum has come out in support of a colleague who was arrested for allegedly helping the North Korean government understand blockchain.
The FBI arrested Ethereum’s head of special projects, Virgil Griffith last week over suspicions that he advised the North Korean government on how to use blockchain technology to skirt sanctions and illegally launder money. Griffith, 36, faces up to twenty years in prison, if convicted.
On Twitter, Buterin voiced support for a petition to free Griffith started by Enrico Talin, CEO of blockchain and marketing company, Commerc.io. At the time of writing, the petition has yet to be created.
“I refuse to take the convenient path of throwing Virgil under the bus, because I firmly believe that that would be wrong,” tweeted Buterin, who acknowledged his bias. Buterin said Virgil is his friend; and that the Ethereum Foundation didn’t pay or support Virgil’s attendance at the conference.
“I don't think what Virgil did gave [North Korea] any kind of real help in doing anything bad. He delivered a presentation based on publicly available info about open-source software. There was no weird hackery ‘advanced tutoring’,” he said.
Yet Buterin’s comments have proven divisive among blockchain’s community of developers.
"A consistent mistake that the hacker community makes is ignoring the consequence of geopolitical relevance,” tweeted Zaki Manian, who works on blockchain project Tendermint. “Actions that might be perceived as mildly rebellious as an irrelevant entity will now attract the attention of the Powers That Be as a relevant actor,” he said.
“By travelling to North Korea as an American citizen he knowingly broke the law and went against sanctions,” Lefteris Karapetsas, an Ethereum developer, tweeted.