Bitcoin Money Launderer Sentenced To 6 Years Behind Bars In $6B Scam

A recent report by the Financial Times reveals that a British-Chinese woman, Jian Wen, has been sentenced to six years and eight months in prison for her involvement in laundering Bitcoin (BTC) allegedly derived from a £5 billion fraud in China. 

Wen, aged 42, was convicted in March of one count of money laundering on behalf of her former boss, Yadi Zhang, a Chinese woman. The sentencing took place at London’s Southwark Crown Court on Friday.

London Mansion Raid Uncovers £3 Billion Bitcoin Stash

According to the report, in 2018, London’s Metropolitan Police conducted a raid on Wen and Zhang’s Hampstead mansion. During the raid, they seized devices containing a staggering 61,000 Bitcoin, currently valued at over £3 billion. Notably, this seizure marked one of the largest cryptocurrency hauls ever made by a law enforcement agency worldwide. 

Authorities had originally investigated Wen concerning an attempted purchase of a London mansion using Bitcoin. Prosecutors in the UK alleged that Wen’s former boss, Zhang, ran a £5 billion fraud scheme in China, resulting in stolen funds.

While Zhang’s lawyer has maintained her innocence, Wen was convicted of laundering a portion of the proceeds between 2017 and 2022 after two trials and acquittals on 10 other counts. It is important to note that Wen was not implicated in the original alleged fraud. 

However, Judge Sally-Ann Hales, KC, emphasized that Wen had full knowledge of dealing with the proceeds of crime and described the offense as “sophisticated with significant planning” involved. 

Wen, who allegedly assisted in converting Bitcoin into cash, jewelry, luxury items, and property, pleaded not guilty and consistently denied being aware that her employer’s funds were stolen.

Letter Urges UK-China Negotiations

Mark Harries KC, Wen’s lawyer, described her as a “fragile and desperate woman” who was deceived and manipulated. However, the judge disagreed with this characterization, stating that she did not consider Wen a victim. 

Wen admitted to controlling a Bitcoin wallet but claimed ignorance regarding the cryptocurrency’s source. The court heard that Wen had not seen her 16-year-old son for 26 months and has been in custody since March 2022.

Between 2017 and 2020, Wen enlisted the assistance of several intermediaries to convert the cryptocurrency into various assets. 

One such intermediary was Michael James Burke, a Dubai-based estate agent, who reportedly aided Wen in selling Bitcoin through his companies in the Seychelles and Switzerland and facilitated property purchases in Dubai. 

The Metropolitan Police is pursuing a civil recovery process to seize the total amount of confiscated funds and is collaborating with Chinese authorities on the matter.

“The Chinese side has already engaged in international law enforcement cooperation with the UK concerning this case,” stated the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in response to the Financial Times. 

The ministry added that law enforcement agencies from both countries are actively working together to pursue fugitives and recover assets. Victims of the alleged £5 billion scam in China have also submitted a letter to the foreign ministry in Beijing, urging negotiations with the UK government to reclaim the Bitcoin purchased with their money.

As of press time, the largest cryptocurrency on the market, BTC, is trading at $68,150 after falling to consolidate above the key $70,000 milestone.

Featured image from Shutterstock, chart from TradingView.com