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Tornado Cash defense lawyers move to dismiss criminal charges

Publishing open-source code is not a crime, Roman Storm's legal defense claimed.

Cartoon tornado filled with crypto logos depicting cryptocurrency mixing

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The legal defense of Roman Storm, one of the core developers of the Tornado Cash crypto mixing protocol, filed a motion Friday to dismiss criminal charges alleging he conspired to commit money laundering and violate U.S. sanctions through his work on the service.

Storm was arrested in Amsterdam in August last year but was subsequently released on bail in connection with allegations that Tornado Cash facilitated the laundering of over $1 billion by North Korean hacker rings and other threat actors.

Storm’s legal team argues that he simply published open-source code that provides financial privacy to legitimate cryptocurrency users, which is not a crime. The filing disputes the characterization of Tornado Cash as a mixer or money transmitter service, instead describing it as a set of non-custodial smart contracts. In this case, the set of smart contracts allows its users to maintain complete ownership and control over their assets without relying on intermediaries.

“Storm is a developer, and his only agreement, together with the members of his U.S-based company, was to build software solutions to provide financial privacy to legitimate cryptocurrency users. This is not a crime,” the defense said in its filing.

The motion also contends that Storm did not have the ability to control or prevent the use of Tornado Cash by specific entities like the Lazarus Group during the time period covered by the indictment.

The legal team also argues that Storm never made an agreement with alleged bad actors, saying the U.S. Department of Justice has wrongly conflated the agreement to develop and publish Tornado Cash code with an (ostensibly non-existent) agreement to engage in purported concealment money laundering. The filing also contends Tornado Cash does not meet the definition of a “financial institution” because it charges no fees and users retain control of their funds.

The charges against Storm mirror those against fellow Tornado Cash developer Alexey Pertsev, who is currently on trial in the Netherlands on similar allegations, though the specific laws differ between the two countries. The U.S. Department of Justice has alleged Tornado Cash played a role in laundering over $1 billion, leading to sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Alongside the motion to dismiss, Storm’s legal team filed separate motions seeking to compel the DOJ to produce evidence, including communications with Dutch authorities and U.S. agencies like the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Another motion argues the FBI’s warrant to seize “any and all cryptocurrency” from Storm was too broad and lacked probable cause.

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