Double Seizures See $3.8 Billion in Crypto Seized by Police

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  • Two massive bitcoin seizures, six years apart, have been revealed within 24 hours of each other
  • German police recently seized 50,000 bitcoins from a pirating scam, while the British seizure took place in 2018 but has just been revealed
  • No plans have been made over the fate of the German coins

Two huge bitcoin seizures, one by German police and one by British police, worth a combined $4 billion have been revealed. The two operations, one linked to online piracy and the other linked to a massive Chinese investment fraud, took place six years apart but have both been publicized in the last 24 hours. No details have been made as to what will happen to the frozen coins, but the standard practice is to auction them off, especially when victims of crime are due recompense.

Pirating Case Leads to Massive Seizure

The German seizure was carried out by the Saxony Integrated Investigation Unit, comprising the Dresden General Prosecutor’s Office, the Saxony State Criminal Police Office, and the tax investigation of the Leipzig II Tax Office. Few details have been revealed about the criminal act that led to the accumulation of the 50,000 bitcoins that were seized, although a press release revealed that the case relates to “suspected unauthorized commercial exploitation of copyrighted works.” 

The actions are directed against two people responsible, a German man and a Pole, who have been accused of profiting from the sale of pirated goods in the early 20102, spending the money on the coins. The coins were “voluntarily transferred” to authorities following the arrests and no decision has been made as to how to handle the $2.1 billion haul.

Chinese Scam Saw 128,000 Victims

More details are known about the British case, which is currently going through the courts. The seizure of over $1.7 billion in bitcoins was disclosed as part of the trial of Jian Wen, a 42-year-old accused of laundering the coins for her former employer, Yadi Zhang, an alleged fugitive from Beijing.

The UK police confiscated more than 61,000 bitcoins from four devices in 2018, found in a safety deposit box and a residence shared by Wen and Zhang at the time. The prosecution informed the jury that these bitcoins were proceeds from Zhang’s investment fraud in China between 2014 and 2017, where she allegedly stole approximately £5 billion ($6.3 billion) from over 128,000 investors.

Funds Converted Into Bitcoins

Zhang, also known as Zhimin Qian, converted the stolen funds into bitcoins and arrived in London in 2017 under a false identity; she remains at large after fleeing the UK. While Wen is not implicated in Zhang’s fraud, she faces charges of aiding in converting some of Zhang’s bitcoin into cash, luxury items, and property, allegedly aware of its criminal origins.

Wen’s ruse was busted when she attempted to purchase a £12.5 million London property for Zhang in 2018, only for the transaction to fail as the law firm responsible for the purchase couldn’t verify the source of the funds. Subsequently, the Met froze funds held by Mishcon in October that year.

Wen, who became a British citizen in 2018 after moving from China in 2007, portrayed herself as Zhang’s caregiver, asserting that Zhang’s bitcoin was derived from legitimate business activities. However, the prosecution argued that Wen was a “front person” paid to keep Zhang in the background, giving her access to critical information related to the seized bitcoins and their storage.

Before her association with Zhang in 2017, Wen had worked in Chinese takeaway restaurants.