Authorities in the United Kingdom have seized Bitcoin valued at over £1.4 billion as a result of an investigation into a former Chinese takeaway worker, Jian Wen, who allegedly attempted to buy a £23.5 million mansion in Hampstead.
According to a Sky News report, the police seized over 61,000 Bitcoin, valued at $1.7 billion during recovery, from four separate devices stored in a safe deposit box in 2018. The police successfully recovered the cryptocurrency from the devices in 2021, as indicated in the report, without delving into specifics.
The Trial of Jian Wen, Accused of Laundering a £5 Billion Investment Fraud Through Bitcoin
On January 31, Jian Wen, aged 42, was accused of acting as a “front person” to assist in laundering profits from a £5 billion investment fraud orchestrated in China by Zhimin Qian between 2014 and 2017. Qian reportedly used cryptocurrency to move the proceeds out of China before arriving in the UK under the false Yadi Zhang identity and a St. Kitts and Nevis passport.
Currently on trial at Southwark Crown Court, Wen is accused of playing a role in the money laundering scheme by acting as a conduit for converting Bitcoin into real assets, including attempting to buy a multimillion-pound mansion. Police reportedly raided the residence rented by Wen and Qian near Hampstead Heath in northwest London, seizing devices containing digital wallets with more than 61,000 Bitcoin.
During the trial at Southwark Crown Court, prosecutor Gillian Jones KC outlined that Jian Wen was not directly involved in the core fraud but played a role in dealing with Bitcoin on behalf of Qian. Wen was accused of acting as a conduit for converting Bitcoin into real assets, including attempting to buy a multimillion-pound mansion.
Police reportedly raided the residence rented by Wen and Qian near Hampstead Heath in northwest London, seizing devices containing digital wallets with more than 61,000 Bitcoin, valued at over £1.4 billion, when authorities accessed them in the summer of 2021.
Wen, who denies three counts of money laundering between October 2017 and January 2022, does not dispute dealing with Bitcoin but claims she was Zhang’s carer and was unaware of the illicit source of the funds. The court heard that Wen and Zhang portrayed themselves as involved in an international jewelry business, traveling extensively and selling Bitcoin while buying high-value items.
Jian Wen’s Involvement in Bitcoin Transactions and Attempted Property Purchases
Before meeting Zhimin Qian (known under various aliases, including Rose, Emma, and Hua Hua), Wen worked at a Chinese takeaway in southeast London and lived in a room underneath the restaurant.
Wen referred to Qian as her “boss,” together, they claimed to be engaged in an international jewelry business, trading diamonds and antiques in countries such as Japan, Thailand, and China. The duo extensively traveled throughout Europe, selling Bitcoin and purchasing high-value items, including fine jewelry and watches.
During their ventures, they considered buying properties in Zurich, and Wen, who remained in the UK while Qian rented a property in Sweden, attempted to buy real estate in London. The proposed purchases included a £23.5 million seven-bedroom Hampstead mansion with a swimming pool and a £12.5 million eight-bedroom home with a cinema and gym. However, none of these transactions materialized because the source of the Bitcoin used for the purchases could not be explained.
According to the prosecutor, Wen initially claimed the cryptocurrency had been mined. Later, she stated it was a “love present” and produced a deed of gift, asserting that she had received 3,000 Bitcoin (worth £15 million at the time) from Qian.
The prosecutor urged the jury to scrutinize the circumstances surrounding this purported gift, questioning whether it was a genuine gesture or a device to create an appearance of legitimacy regarding the source of funds when Wen attempted to buy high-value property on Qian’s behalf.
The jury will be tasked with deciding whether Wen knew or suspected that the funds were the proceeds of a crime. Meanwhile, Zhimin Qian has reportedly fled the UK and remains at large. The trial continues, with Wen facing three counts of money laundering between October 2017 and January 2022.
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