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£3 Billion Bitcoin Fraud: Ex-Takeaway Worker who Bought Multi-Million Pound Houses Convicted

Last Updated March 22, 2024 9:02 AM
Eddie Mitchell
Last Updated March 22, 2024 9:02 AM
By Eddie Mitchell
Verified by Peter Henn
Key Takeaways
  • A UK woman who laundered billions worth of Bitcoin has been convicted.
  • She originally acquired the crypto through a £5 billion investment fraud in China.
  • Her alleged co-conspirator remains on the run from authorities.

A woman has been convicted in the United Kingdom following the discovery of the gigantic stash of Bitcoin (BTC) she had laundered with a co-conspirator, who remains at large.

Jian Wen, 42, has been found guilty on one count of money laundering. She amassed a fortune of 61,000 BTC, or roughly £3 billion at its current value. This makes it the biggest cryptocurrency seizure of its kind in UK history.

The Story So Far

Reports say that, according to Wen’s declared earnings for 2017, the year alleged co-conspirator Yadi Zhang arrived in London, she had just £5,979 to her name.

Within week’s of Zhang’s arrival in September that year, Wen, who was living in a flat above a Chinese restaurant in Leeds, swiftly moved into a £5 million six-bedroom house in North London. Somehow, she was suddenly able to pay £17,000 a month in rent, with six months paid upfront alongside a deposit exceeding £40,000.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the pair claimed to work for a prestigious international jewelry business trading diamonds and antiques across the world in countries such as Japan and Thailand, which also saw Wen purchasing properties worth more than £500,000 in Dubai in 2019.

Wen had adopted a lavish lifestyle, buying luxury cars and paying for her son to attend a £6,000-a-term private school. But in typical fraudster fashion, she seemingly couldn’t stop spending. Finally, her attempts to purchase some of the most expensive properties in London, including a £23.5 million mansion, caught the attention of the authorities.

The Investigation in the UK’s Biggest Crypto Fraud

After Wen tried to buy these multi-million pound properties in London, anti-money laundering (AML) checks kicked into high alert. As a result, none of the purchases were able to go ahead.

Wen reportedly claimed she had earned the crypto through mining. She also said the 3,000 BTC she held was a “love present” from Zhang, who remains at large.

According to reports , Zhang had fled to the UK from China using a false passport after duping some 130,000 Chinese investors out of around £5 billion with a fraudulent scheme between 2014 and 2017. Wen, however, is not alleged to have anything to do with the underlying fraud.

Prosecutors say Wen was the acting “front person” to disguise the source of the funds. Wen, in her defense, said that she was “duped” and was “badly used”. Wen claimed she didn’t know the funds were the proceeds of fraud.

UK Scuttles to Secure Crypto

The news arrives in a timely fashion. The UK is currently is trying to ramp up regulation efforts in a bid to prevent crypto-related crimes, frauds, or illegal and illicit usage. This includes new powers that allow authorities to seize crypto from suspect wallets without any criminal conviction.

Notably, the CPS also obtained a freezing order from the High Court. At the same time, it carried out a civil recovery investigation that could see the Bitcoin forfeited to authorities.

The CPS said “new civil powers to recover, forfeit and convert cryptoassets are not available to the CPS”. It noted that only police and other law enforcement could use the new powers. A spokesperson said:

“We can therefore not comment on how these may be used in individual cases.”

The Metropolitan Police’s five-year investigation resulting in the largest cryptocurrency seizure in UK history. Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Prins, who led the investigation, said it “demonstrates how international criminals seek to exploit cryptocurrency for illegal purposes”.

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