Tornado Cash Developer to Stay in Jail as Dutch Trial Continues

Alexey Pertsev was arrested in the Netherlands in August shortly after the U.S. sanctioned the crypto privacy tool.

AccessTimeIconFeb 15, 2023 at 5:02 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 9, 2024 at 1:58 a.m. UTC

‘S-HERTEGONBOSCH, THE NETHERLANDS – Alexey Pertsev, a developer of crypto privacy tool Tornado Cashm will have to remain in jail after a Wednesday hearing in his trial on money laundering charges.

A panel of Dutch judges at the East Brabant Court agreed that the Russian web developer could flee or seek to hide evidence if freed on bail. Pertsev has denied the charges against him. His next hearing will take place in late April.

Pertsev was arrested in August, just days after the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned the anonymizing tool for crypto transactions, which it says was used to fund North Korean hackers. Under the Dutch system of pre-trial detention, charges against Pertsev were not unveiled until a November court hearing.

Dutch public prosecutor Martine Boerlage alleged that, rather than merely publishing code, Pertsev and others ran Tornado like a business, comparing them to bank clerks accepting piles of suspicious cash without question.

Pertsev’s arrest has drawn protests from Edward Snowden and the local crypto community, while the OFAC sanctions have drawn criticism from privacy and crypto advocates.

Speaking to CoinDesk outside the courtroom, Pertsev’s lawyer Keith Cheng said the hearing had been a “good beginning” in educating the court about how decentralized finance works.

“We had the opportunity to explain what the basis is for Tornado Cash and, and why it is not money laundering,” Cheng said. “It is our opinion that the lack of knowledge is what's keeping him here.”

“Of course I’m disappointed” that Pertsev won’t be released on bail, Cheng said “He will fight until the end to show what the importance is of decentralized options, software and open source code.”

UPDATE (Feb. 15, 2023, 17:15 UTC): Adds comments from Pertsev's attorney.


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Jack Schickler

Jack Schickler was a CoinDesk reporter focused on crypto regulations, based in Brussels, Belgium. He doesn’t own any crypto.