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

Tim Hakki
Last updated: | 2 min read
Source: Pixabay

UK prosecutors are challenging the claims of a British-Chinese national who says she had “no idea” she was part of a $6.3 billion Bitcoin money laundering plot.

The 42-year-old dual national Jian Wen has pled not guilty to three counts of money laundering on behalf of her former employer, Yadi Zhang, according to a report by Financial Times.

Authorities in Beijing allege Zhang looted $6.3 billion from various acts of investment fraud between 2014 and 2017. She is currently on the lam.

Wen admits she controlled one of three wallets tied to the theft, but says she didn’t know its contents were ill-gotten. She told the Southwark Crown Court in London: “I did not know or suspect that the bitcoin was from the crime. No idea at all.”

Wen worked in a takeaway shop when she first met Zhang in a London hotel after applying to be her butler in 2017 . She claims Zhang told her she ran antiques and jewellery businesses in the Far East. Zhang said she wanted to expand into the UK and hired Wen to help. The pair moved into a $17,000 a month, six-bedroom mansion in the British capital a few weeks later.

Wen claims the pair last spoke in October 2020, one night before Zhang skipped her police interview. British prosecutors say Wen’s previous Google searches indicate concerns about suspicion of money laundering and extradition procedures for criminal offences.

Zhang’s Bitcoin Laundering Comes To Light

The case hit the press at the end of last year although the investigation has been ongoing for over half a decade.

In 2018, Metropolitan police raided the duo’s Hampstead mansion and seized over 61,000 Bitcoin, valued $1.7 billion at the time ($2.5 billion today), from a safe deposit box containing four hardware wallets. The police successfully recovered the cryptocurrency from the devices in 2021.

Prosecutor Gillian Jones says Zhang fled to the UK under a false identity in 2017 when Chinese authorities started investigating her scheme. Local authorities arrested some of her gang, but Zhang remains at large.

Jones alleges Wen acted as a “front person” for Zhang, using crypto to disguise the stolen money and transfer it out of China.

Upon Zhang’s arrival in London, she converted the funds into fiat or other high-value assets such as property or jewellery, he explained.

The court heard how the pair travelled around Europe and bought fine jewellery. Wen also tried to buy luxury homes, including a £23.5 million seven-bedroom London mansion with a swimming pool, and a £12.5 million eight-bedroom home with a gym and cinema.

While Wen does not dispute her involvement in dealing with Bitcoin, the jury will determine whether she knew or suspected that the Bitcoin she handled constituted the proceeds of a crime.

Wen’s trial will conclude in March.