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UK Prosecutors Challenge Defendant’s Claim of Innocence in $6.3 Billion Bitcoin Laundering Case

UK prosecutors are disputing the assertions of a British-Chinese national who claims she was unaware of her involvement in a $6.3 billion Bitcoin money laundering scheme.

Jian Wen, a 42-year-old dual national, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of money laundering on behalf of her former employer, Yadi Zhang, as reported by the Financial Times.

According to authorities in Beijing, Zhang is accused of embezzling $6.3 billion through various investment frauds between 2014 and 2017 and is currently evading capture.

While Wen acknowledges controlling one of three wallets linked to the theft, she maintains that she was unaware of the illicit origins of its contents. During her testimony at the Southwark Crown Court in London, Wen stated, “I did not know or suspect that the bitcoin was from the crime. No idea at all.”

Wen initially worked in a takeaway shop before meeting Zhang at a London hotel in 2017, where she had applied to be Zhang’s butler. Wen claims Zhang informed her that she operated antiques and jewelry businesses in the Far East and sought to expand into the UK, hiring Wen to assist her. Shortly thereafter, the pair moved into a six-bedroom mansion in London, costing $17,000 a month.

Wen asserts that she last communicated with Zhang in October 2020, just before Zhang skipped a scheduled police interview. However, British prosecutors argue that Wen’s previous Google searches suggest concerns about potential suspicions of money laundering and extradition procedures for criminal offenses.

Zhang’s Bitcoin Laundering Comes To Light

The story made headlines towards the end of the previous year, yet the investigation has been in progress for more than five years.

Back in 2018, the Metropolitan police conducted a raid on the duo’s mansion in Hampstead, where they confiscated over 61,000 Bitcoins. At that time, the value was $1.7 billion, which has now surged to $2.5 billion. The Bitcoins were found in a safe deposit box along with four hardware wallets. It wasn’t until 2021 that the police managed to successfully retrieve the cryptocurrency from these devices.

According to Prosecutor Gillian Jones, Zhang fled to the UK in 2017 using a false identity, as Chinese authorities began probing her fraudulent activities. While local authorities apprehended some members of her gang, Zhang herself remains elusive.

Jones contends that Wen acted as a “front person” for Zhang, utilizing cryptocurrency to camouflage the embezzled funds and move them out of China.

Upon Zhang’s arrival in London, she allegedly converted the funds into fiat currency or other valuable assets, such as real estate or jewelry.

During the court proceedings, it was revealed that the pair traveled across Europe and made purchases of fine jewelry. Additionally, Wen attempted to acquire luxury properties, including a £23.5 million seven-bedroom mansion in London with a swimming pool, and a £12.5 million eight-bedroom residence featuring a gym and cinema.

While Wen does not dispute her involvement in Bitcoin transactions, the jury will assess whether she was aware or had suspicions that the Bitcoin she handled were proceeds of illegal activities.

Wen’s trial is expected to conclude in March.

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