Advocacy groups warn of ‘adverse repercussions’ for crypto in case against Tornado Cash co-founder

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Representatives of three United States-based cryptocurrency advocacy organizations have filed amicus briefs in support of a motion to dismiss the charges against Tornado Cash co-founder Roman Storm.

In April 5 filings in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Blockchain Association, Coin Center and DeFi Education Fund argued that Tornado Cash did not have control of the funds or messages users sent through the cryptocurrency mixer. The advocacy groups separately claimed that the three felony counts Roman faces should be dismissed, citing First Amendment issues regarding the Tornado Cash co-founder allegedly violating sanctions and the U.S. government “misunderstand[ing] the basic relationship between smart contract protocols and their developers” regarding allegations of money laundering.

“Adoption of the government’s legal theory would not only have adverse repercussions for the digital asset industry but also raise serious concerns regarding fintech more generally,” said Blockchain Association Head of Legal Marisa Coppel. “We urge the court to hold the government up to its burden and dismiss the unfounded charges, safeguarding both the defendants’ rights and the integrity of the burgeoning digital asset sector.”

Source: Peter Van Valkenburg

The U.S. Justice Department announced charges against Storm and co-developer Roman Semenov in August 2023. Storm pleaded not guilty to all three charges and is free on a $2 million bond, largely restricted from traveling. Semenov’s whereabouts were unknown at the time of publication, but Storm is set to go to trial in September.

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In the Netherlands, Tornado Cash developer Alexey Pertsev was arrested in August 2022 but released after roughly nine months in jail. Dutch authorities alleged he played a role in North Korean hacking groups using the crypto mixer to launder roughly $1 billion in illicit funds.

All three cases are connected to the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control adding crypto addresses associated with Tornado Cash to its list of Specially Designated Nationals — sanctioned entities. The decision prompted some crypto advocates to sue the U.S. Treasury, but both cases await appeal after losing summary judgment motions.

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