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UK Woman Found Guilty of Laundering $2.5B in Bitcoin

Tanzeel Akhtar
Last updated: | 2 min read
UK Woman Found Guilty of Laundering $2.5B in Bitcoin

A British woman has been found guilty and convicted on Wednesday for laundering over $2.5 billion (£2 billion) worth of bitcoin for a Chinese fugitive.

Jian Wen, a 42 year old British citizen has been found guilty for money laundering on behalf of a Chinese woman called Yadi Zhang.

The jury found Wen guilty on one count of money laundering and couldn’t reach a decision on two other charges. In an announcement, the Crown Prosecution Service said the sheer scale of the seized Bitcoin, the lack of any legitimate evidence for how it was acquired and its connection to a massive investment fraud in China, all indicated that it was criminal property.

The proceeds from Bitcoin were used by Wen to purchase a multi-million pound house in an affluent part of North London, in the UK. Police seized Bitcoin from Wen in a 2018 raid in the UK.

Largest Cryptocurrency Seizure in the UK

“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,” said Andrew Penhale, Chief Crown Prosecutor, in a statement.

“This case, involving the largest cryptocurrency seizure in the UK, illustrates the scale of criminal proceeds available to those fraudsters,” adds Penhale.

Rags to Riches Lifestyle 

Wen played a huge role in converting significant amounts of the Bitcoin into cash and other expensive assets, on behalf of an international fraudster. She went from being a working class woman and living a modest lifestyle in Leeds, north of the UK. Then almost overnight her fortune changed significantly when she met the fellow Chinese national Zhang who was the source of the Bitcoin, said the CPS. 

Throughout the course of the investigation Wen denied knowing that any of the Bitcoin had been derived from criminality. Wen admitted she controlled one of three wallets tied to the theft, but says she didn’t know its contents were ill-gotten. 

Spend, spend, spend!

The CPS released an outline of her spending spree and how Wen was eventually was caught.

In 2017, she moved into a six-bedroom property in London, at a rental cost of over £17,000 each month and between Autumn 2017 and late 2018, Wen made efforts to purchase properties in London, valued at £4.5 million, £23.5 million, and £12.5 million. But faced difficulties converting sufficient Bitcoin into Sterling due to the “know your customer” questions asked of her under anti-money laundering regulations.

Wen managed to present herself as successfully operating an international jewellery business, with Wen operating as the English-speaking and apparently legitimate front person for her employer Zhang.

Between 2017 and 2019, she purchased jewellery worth tens of thousands of pounds in Zurich. In 2019, she travelled to Dubai, arranging to view a number of properties for sale. Between October – November 2019 she went on to purchase two properties in Dubai. Their value in total amounted to more than half a million in Sterling.

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