$6 Billion Chinese Bitcoin Launderer Gets Six Years

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  • Chinese national Jian Wen has been sentenced to six years and eight months for laundering bitcoin linked to a $6 billion fraud in China
  • Wen was convicted of money laundering in March on behalf of her former boss, Yadi Zhang
  • The Metropolitan Police seized devices with 61,000 bitcoin, today valued at over £3 billion, in a 2018 raid.

Jian Wen, a British-Chinese woman, was last week sentenced to six years and eight months in prison for laundering bitcoin connected to a $6 billion fraud in China orchestrated by her former employer. Wen, 42, was convicted in March of money laundering on behalf of Yadi Zhang following a 2018 raid on Wen and Zhang’s Hampstead mansion. London’s Metropolitan Police seized devices holding 61,000 bitcoin, currently valued at over £3 billion, which is among the largest cryptocurrency confiscations by any law enforcement agency globally.

Wen Maintained Her Innocence

According to UK prosecutors, Zhang was responsible for embezzling funds in a $6 billion fraud in China. Zhang remains out of the reach of authorities, although her lawyer maintains her innocence. Wen, however, was convicted of laundering some of the fraud’s proceeds between 2017 and 2022, despite being acquitted on ten other charges. She was not implicated in the original fraud.

Wen was accused of converting bitcoin into cash, jewelry, luxury items, and property. She pleaded not guilty, consistently denying knowledge that her employer’s funds were stolen. Her lawyer, Mark Harries KC, argued that Wen was a “fragile and desperate woman” who had been “duped and used” by Zhang, alleging that she knew nothing about the scam and never had control over the Bitcoin wallet in question.

However, Judge Sally-Ann Hales dismissed the characterization of Wen as a victim, stating, “I am in no doubt that you knew, rather than merely suspected, that you were dealing in the proceeds of crime.” She added that the crime involved significant sophistication and planning.

Bitcoin Converted into Dubai Properties

Gillian Jones KC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, highlighted that Wen’s transactions occurred despite warnings about the bitcoin’s dubious origins. Between 2017 and 2020, Wen used various middlemen, including Dubai-based estate agent Michael James Burke, to convert cryptocurrency into other assets and purchase properties in Dubai.

The Metropolitan Police are currently engaged in a civil recovery process to forfeit the seized funds and are collaborating with Chinese authorities to achieve this. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed ongoing international law enforcement cooperation with the UK, focusing on tracking fugitives and recovering assets.

This cooperation follows a plea from a group representing victims of the alleged $6 billion scam in China, urging the Beijing government to negotiate with the UK for the recovery of the fraudulently acquired bitcoin.