UK Woman Found Guilty of Laundering Bitcoin Tied to $6 Billion China Fraud

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Jian Wen, a for­mer take­away work­er resid­ing in north Lon­don, was found guilty of one count of mon­ey laun­der­ing after she was found with Bit­coin worth over $2.5 bil­lion (£2 bil­lion) in 2018.

Jian Wen assist­ed a Chi­nese fugi­tive known to Wen as Zhang Yadi, whose real name is Qian Zhimin, in laun­der­ing the BTC funds.

The Bitcoin Laundering Case

Wen was found with Bit­coin val­ued at over £2 bil­lion, which she had been involved in con­vert­ing into assets such as mul­ti-mil­lion-pound hous­es and jew­el­ry. Despite liv­ing in a flat above a Chi­nese restau­rant in Leeds when she first became involved in crim­i­nal activ­i­ty, Wen’s lifestyle saw a dras­tic upgrade.

Wen’s attempt to legit­imize her new­found wealth by claim­ing to have earned mil­lions through legit­i­mate Bit­coin min­ing was not believed. She also faced dif­fi­cul­ties pass­ing mon­ey-laun­der­ing checks when attempt­ing to pur­chase expen­sive prop­er­ties in London.

The inves­ti­ga­tion revealed that anoth­er sus­pect named Zhang Yadi is believed to be the mas­ter­mind behind the fraud. Pros­e­cu­tors alleged that Wen aid­ed Zhang in con­vert­ing stolen funds amassed through fraud­u­lent wealth schemes tar­get­ing thou­sands of Chi­nese investors.

Dur­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion, British police seized wal­lets con­tain­ing more than 61,000 BTC, con­sti­tut­ing one of the largest cryp­tocur­ren­cy seizures glob­al­ly. The ini­tial esti­mates val­ued the Bit­coin funds at around £2 bil­lion, but due to price fluc­tu­a­tions, it has since increased to approx­i­mate­ly £3.4 billion.

The Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice (CPS) has obtained a freez­ing order from the High Court as part of a civ­il recov­ery inves­ti­ga­tion that could lead to the for­fei­ture of the Bitcoin.

Wen Found Guilty of Money Laundering

Dur­ing the tri­al, Pros­e­cu­tor Gillian Jones dis­closed that Zhang entered Britain in 2017 with a fake pass­port amid Chi­nese author­i­ties’ probe into the fraud. Zhang sought to con­vert the stolen funds, ini­tial­ly turned into Bit­coin for their trans­fer out of Chi­na, and used Wen as a “front person.”

Her defense por­trayed her as a vic­tim deceived by Zhang, empha­siz­ing her intent to pro­vide a bet­ter life for her son. How­ev­er, the pros­e­cu­tion argued that Wen should have been aware of the ille­gal source of the funds, giv­en Zhang’s crim­i­nal activ­i­ties and efforts to evade Chi­nese author­i­ties. Despite this, jurors found her guilty of one count of mon­ey laundering.

Andrew Pen­hale, the chief crown pros­e­cu­tor at the CPS, not­ed orga­nized crim­i­nals’ increas­ing use of cryp­tocur­ren­cies to dis­guise and trans­fer assets. He stat­ed that this case illus­trates the sig­nif­i­cant pro­ceeds avail­able to such fraudsters.

Detec­tive Chief Super­in­ten­dent Jason Prins, who led the inves­ti­ga­tion, empha­sized the inter­na­tion­al nature of the oper­a­tion, high­light­ing how crim­i­nals exploit cryp­tocur­ren­cies for illic­it purposes.

Wen is sched­uled to be sen­tenced on May 10 while the hunt for Zhang con­tin­ues as she remains at large.

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