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Former Chinese takeaway worker jailed for money laundering after police seized 61,000 bitcoins — currently worth $4 billion

Nathan Rennolds   

Former Chinese takeaway worker jailed for money laundering after police seized 61,000 bitcoins — currently worth $4 billion
  • A British-Chinese woman has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for money laundering.
  • Police seized 61,000 bitcoins — now worth more than $4 billion — from Jian Wen's home in 2018.

A British-Chinese woman has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for her part in a bitcoin money laundering scam.

Jian Wen, 42, was initially found guilty at London's Southwark Crown Court on March 20, the UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said in a press release at the time.

She was sentenced to 80 months in prison on Friday.

Wen first came to the attention of authorities after she made a series of attempts to buy luxury homes in London from 2017 to 2018. The three properties were valued at £23.5 million ($29.7 million), £12.5 million ($15.8 million), and £4.5 million ($5.7 million).

The subsequent investigation culminated in police seizing devices containing 61,000 bitcoins — currently worth more than $4 billion — in 2018, in what was the UK's largest-ever crypto seizure.

The funds are said to have come from an investment fraud operation in China led by her "employer," Yadi Zhang.

In her sentencing remarks, Judge Sally-Ann Hales, KC, said that more than 128,000 investors pumped 40 billion Renminbi (roughly $5.6 billion) into the scheme.

"Some of the proceeds of this fraud were exchanged for bitcoin, loaded onto a cryptocurrency wallet and smuggled out of China on a laptop," she added.

According to the CPS press release, Wen was convicted of converting "significant amounts" of the bitcoin into cash and other assets on her boss's behalf.

Despite declaring an income of just £12,800 (around $16,200) and £5,979 (roughly $7,600) in 2015 and 2016, Wen moved into a six-bedroom property in London in 2017, paying over £17,000 (around $21,600) a month.

Wen and her boss claimed to run an international jewelry business, with Wen acting as the "front person." They also paid for Wen's son to move to the UK from China to attend a private school and purchased two properties in Dubai.

But her attempts to purchase extravagant London homes triggered anti-money laundering checks, and the sales stalled as she could not explain the source of the funds.

Wen was not accused of involvement in the original fraud, but Hales told Wen that she was "in no doubt that by 22 June 2019, you knew, rather than merely suspected, that you were dealing in the proceeds of crime."

In March, Andrew Penhale, chief prosecutor, said: "Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are increasingly being used by organized criminals to disguise and transfer assets so that fraudsters may enjoy the benefits of their criminal conduct."

"This case, involving the largest cryptocurrency seizure in the UK, illustrates the scale of criminal proceeds available to those fraudsters," he added.




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