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Tornado Cash dev Alexey Pertsev faces a hearing this month — here’s what to expect

  • Alexey Pertsev will face his next pre-trial hearing on 24 May. The Dutch courthouse overseeing the crypto developer’s case tells DL News what to expect.
  • Pertsev’s residence status and preparations for his trial will be on the agenda.

Tornado Cash developer Alexey Pertsev will face his next hearing on 24 May, as he awaits trial since his arrest in August. Pertsev was released from his eight-month detention in April and is under house arrest with a tracking monitor on his ankle.

The case is being watched by crypto developers and privacy advocates, sparking debate on the legal responsibility of developers over the way their code is used by others. Legal experts say that a developer can be liable if they know that their code can be used illicitly.

Pertsev’s arrest

Pertsev’s arrest in the Netherlands came days after the US placed sanctions on the crypto privacy protocol. He faces money laundering charges, which he denies.

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The hearing will take place in the District Court Oost-Brabant handling the case, in the Dutch city of Den Bosch.

At the top of the hearing agenda is Pertsev’s residency status, a courthouse spokesperson told DL News. The Russian-born, Amsterdam dweller’s permit is due to expire in July so the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service will need to provide clarity if his residence is not extended.

The court will reassess whether Pertsev will be able to stay out of jail ahead of his trial and under what conditions

The US Treasury accused Tornado Cash of facilitating the laundering of billions of dollars from “malicious cyber actors’ funds,” including, allegedly, the North Korean government-run Lazarus Group, which was sanctioned in 2019. The decentralised protocol scrambles crypto transactions, allowing users to obscure their identities and other details.

The court will also reassess whether Pertsev will be able to stay out of jail ahead of his trial and under what conditions, according to the spokesperson. For example, whether the ankle bracelet stays on, or, in an extreme outcome, whether there is a reason for him to go back to jail.

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Clarity on the trial

The hearing should prepare and provide clarity on the trial, which the spokesperson said has not yet been scheduled.

During the trial, the judge will investigate whether the prosecutor can convincingly prove criminal offense. After the trial, the judge would issue a ruling within two weeks, which both the prosecutor or the defense will be able to appeal.

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The court denied Pertsev’s plea to be released twice, during the November and February hearings. The prosecutor considered him a flight risk, CoinDesk previously reported.

Coding can land developers in legal hot water in European and US jurisdictions, depending on the intent and the extent of the dev’s knowledge, lawyers who specialise in digital asset law told DL News.

Tornado Cash

Tornado Cash is a decentralised protocol on several blockchains like Ethereum. It intends to give users enhanced privacy by making their transactions impossible to follow on the blockchain.

Tornado allows users to deposit crypto into a central pool, which is then mixed into lots, then withdrawn into new wallets. The process breaks the link between the original deposit and its withdrawal.

Pertsev was held in a Dutch jail for about three months without charges. In a hearing in November, the country’s public prosecutor finally announced that he was being charged with money laundering.

The US ban on Tornado Cash “labels all active users for seeking individual anonymity on-chain as criminals,” according to the Tornado Cash Community web site.

And Andre Cronje, the founder of Yearn who works with the Fantom Foundation told DL News last year that it’s “highly likely” he’ll end up in jail.

A previous version of this story used a photo of a person that wasn’t Pertsev.