Chinese Arrested In UK For Bitcoin Money Laundering

BBC News
22 Mar 2024

A former takeaway worker found with Bitcoin worth more than £2bn has been convicted at Southwark Crown Court of a crime linked to money laundering.

 

Jian Wen, 42, from Hendon in north London, was involved in converting the currency into assets including multi-million-pound houses and jewellery.

 

On Monday she was convicted of entering into or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement.

 

The Met said the seizure is the largest of its kind in the UK.

 

Although Wen was living in a flat above a Chinese restaurant in Leeds when she became involved in the criminal activity, her new lifestyle saw her move into a six-bedroom house in north London in 2017 which was rented for more than £17,000 per month.

 

She posed as an employee of an international jewellery business and moved her son to the UK to attend private school, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

 

That same year, Wen tried to buy a string of expensive houses in London, but struggled to pass money-laundering checks and her claims she had earned millions legitimately mining Bitcoin were not believed.

 

She later travelled abroad, buying jewellery worth tens of thousands of pounds in Zurich, and purchasing properties in Dubai in 2019.

 

Another suspect is thought to be behind the fraud but they remain at large.

 

The Met said it carried out a large scale investigation as part of the case - searching several addresses, reviewing 48 electronic devices, and examining thousands of digital files including many which were translated from Mandarin.

 

Det Ch Supt Jason Prins, whose team led the investigation, said the "sheer scale" of the operation "demonstrates how international criminals seek to exploit cryptocurrency for illegal purposes".

 

"This verdict and lengthy five-year investigation demonstrates that we'll leave no stone unturned in our pursuit to catch criminals who look to enjoy the proceeds of illicit funds - no matter how complex the case," he said.

 

The CPS has obtained a freezing order from the High Court, while it carries out a civil recovery investigation that could lead to the forfeiture of the Bitcoin.

 

The value of the Bitcoin was worth around £2bn at the time of initial estimates - but due to the fluctuation in the currency's value, it has since increased to around £3.4bn.

 

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

 

He added this case "illustrates the scale of criminal proceeds available to those fraudsters".

 

Wen is due to be sentenced on 10 May.

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