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Donald Trump Promises Ross Ulbricht Pardon, Will Tornado Cash and Others Receive the Same?

Published May 27, 2024 4:38 PM
Eddie Mitchell
Published May 27, 2024 4:38 PM
Key Takeaways
  • Donald Trump has promised to end the life sentence of the Silk Road founder if elected.
  • An Ulbricht pardon could see privacy-focused crypto mixers Tornado Cash and Samourai Wallet could see their criminal cases dismissed.
  • Speculators have suggested Julian Assange and Edward Snowden may also receive pardons.

Donald Trump has doubled down on his commitment to pardoning Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht.

With the former U.S. President now warming to Bitcoin (BTC) and cryptocurrencies in general, are there other “crypto criminals” who could receive the same pardon?

A Pardon for Ulbricht

Speaking at the Libertarian National Convention on May 25 , Donald Trump pledged to pardon Silk Road founder Ross Ulbrich, who was sentenced to life in jail for creating and operating the dark web marketplace.

β€œAnd if you vote for me, on Day One, I will commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht.”

Similarly to other so-called ‘libertarian heroes’ such as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, Ulbricht’s conviction is considered an example of significant government overreach and was a top issue for Libertarian voters.

Vying for the Libertarian vote, Trump’s promise chimed well with the crowd and voters who have beeing lobbying  for Ulbricht’s release since his arrest in 2013.

This sparked discussion around any other potential pardons that could come down the pipeline. Other names included Snowden and Assange , but these pardons could trickle further down into crypto, especially given Trump’s sudden warming to cryptocurrencies.

A Tornado Cash Pardon?

Trump could offer pardons to the controversial and now-deemed criminal, Tornado Cash, a privacy-focused cryptocurrency mixer platform that has been under fire for some time.

Other than being sanctioned by the U.S. government for giving North Korean hacking group Lazarus a means to launder billions in stolen crypto, its founders are also facing money laundering charges.

One of the founders and developers, Alexey Pertsev, has already been convicted on said charges in the Netherlands. The two other founders, Roman Storm and Roman Semenov, are currently awaiting trial.

The case bears some similarities to that of the Silk Road, in which a digital platform was created without nefarious intent, though it was ultimately used as such, but there are some distinct differences. Namely, the argument that Tornado Cash’s developers made the platform autonomous and open source, and claim to have relinquished all control over the platform.

Privacy-preserving wallet and crypto mixer, Samourai, is facing similar charges, with the U.S. charging its two founders for processing and laundering billions in illegal transactions. The pair are facing up to 25 years in jail.

Arguably, if Trump is to free Ulbricht, who retained full control over the Silk Road, a precedent could be set for autonomous/open-source crypto platforms.

Roger Ver, SBF, and CZ

One of crypto’s most contentious personalities and founder of Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Roger Ver, was recently arrested on charges of tax evasion to the tune of $48 million, filing false tax returns, and mail fraud.

Ver, who is occasionally called “Bitcoin Jesus” could face between two months and 30 years in prison. If he were to receive the maximum sentence, he’d be serving a longer time than FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) who is serving 25 years

If given the minimum, Ver will serve a sentence two months shorter than former Binance CEO, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, who is serving four months in jail after being found guilty of violating U.S. money laundering laws, forcing Binance to pay billions in fines.

For these three, it is unlikely that any will receive a pardon in the near future, or even retroactively. But, considering Donald Trump isn’t the biggest fan  of the tax man, he could find a way to side with certain cases.

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