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

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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