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UK Woman Found Guilty of Laundering $2.5B in Bitcoin

On Wednesday, a British woman was convicted of laundering over $2.5 billion (£2 billion) worth of bitcoin for a Chinese fugitive. Jian Wen, a 42-year-old British citizen, was found guilty of money laundering on behalf of Yadi Zhang, a Chinese woman. The jury convicted Wen on one count of money laundering but couldn’t reach a decision on two other charges. The Crown Prosecution Service noted the immense scale of the seized Bitcoin, the absence of legitimate evidence regarding its acquisition, and its connection to a significant investment fraud in China, all suggesting its illicit nature. Wen used the proceeds from Bitcoin to purchase a multi-million pound house in an affluent area of North London, UK. The Bitcoin was seized from Wen during a 2018 police raid in the UK.

Largest Cryptocurrency Seizure in the UK

“Increasingly, organized criminals are utilizing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to conceal and transfer assets, allowing fraudsters to reap the rewards of their illicit activities,” stated Andrew Penhale, Chief Crown Prosecutor. “This case, which involves the largest cryptocurrency seizure in the UK, underscores the magnitude of criminal proceeds accessible to these fraudsters,” Penhale emphasized.

Rags to Riches Lifestyle

Wen played a pivotal role in converting substantial portions of the Bitcoin into cash and other high-value assets on behalf of an international fraudster. According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), she transitioned from a working-class lifestyle in Leeds, UK, to a significantly altered fortune virtually overnight after encountering Zhang, a fellow Chinese national and the source of the Bitcoin.

During the investigation, Wen consistently denied awareness of the illicit origins of any of the Bitcoin. Although she admitted to controlling one of three wallets associated with the theft, she maintained ignorance regarding the nefarious nature of its contents.

Spend, spend, spend!

The CPS unveiled a detailed account of Wen’s extravagant spending spree and the eventual circumstances leading to her apprehension.

In 2017, she relocated to a luxurious six-bedroom residence in London, with monthly rent exceeding £17,000. From Autumn 2017 to late 2018, Wen endeavored to acquire properties in London, with values ranging from £4.5 million to £23.5 million. However, she encountered obstacles in converting sufficient Bitcoin into Sterling, primarily due to stringent “know your customer” inquiries mandated by anti-money laundering regulations.

Wen skillfully portrayed herself as the proprietor of an international jewelry enterprise, serving as the articulate and ostensibly legitimate face for her employer, Zhang.

Between 2017 and 2019, she indulged in purchasing jewelry worth tens of thousands of pounds in Zurich. By 2019, Wen ventured to Dubai, arranging to inspect several properties for sale. From October to November 2019, she proceeded to purchase two properties in Dubai, totaling over half a million in Sterling value.

Despite the case garnering media attention towards the end of the previous year, the investigation had been ongoing for over five years.

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