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UK £3 Billion Bitcoin Fraud: Woman Sentenced to Six Years Multi-Million Pound Houses Convicted

Last Updated 6 days ago
Eddie Mitchell
Last Updated 6 days ago
By Eddie Mitchell
Verified by Peter Henn
Key Takeaways
  • A 42-year-old Chinese woman discovered with 61,000 BTC has been jailed for six years and 8 months in the UK.
  • Wen pled not guilty as she did not know the source of the funds.
  • Chinese and British authorities are now cooperating to catch the remaining fugitives.

A UK woman has been sentenced to over six years in prison after helping to launder billions in Bitcoin (BTC) gained from a massive investment fraud in China.

Jian Wen denied the allegations, claiming she didn’t know her employer’s funds were stolen. Meanwhile, the individual who conducted the underlying fraud remains at large.

Guilty, Not a Victim

Wen, 42, held a fortune of 61,000 BTC, or roughly £3 billion at its current value, making it the largest cryptocurrency seizure of its kind in UK history. She has been found guilty, and jailed for 6 years and 8 months.

Wen pled not guilty on the grounds that she had no idea that these funds were from a £5 billion investment fraud conducted in China. According to reports , her lawyers argued that “Miss Wen was a fragile and desperate woman” and she was “undoubtedly duped and used.”

However, the judge disagreed with the counsel’s view that Wen was a victim, who had admitted  to having control over the Bitcoin wallet. It was noted that Wen used several middlemen to convert the BTC into other assets between 2017 and 2020.

This included help from a Dubai-based property agent, who sold her BTC through his Seychelles and Switzerland companies, as well as purchase properties in Dubai.

At present, both Chinese and British law enforcement agencies are collaborating to bring down the remaining fugitives and recover any other related assets.

Billions Discovered

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 weeks 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 Begins

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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