Chinese takeaway worker Jian Wen jailed for money laundering after £3 billion Bitcoin seizure

A former Chinese takeaway worker found guilty of money laundering after police seized more than £3 billion worth of Bitcoin has been jailed for more than six years.

Jian Wen, 42, came to the attention of police when she tried to buy some of London’s most expensive properties, including a £23.5 million seven-bedroom Hampstead mansion with a swimming pool and a nearby £12 house. 5 million with a cinema and gym.

The investigation led to Britain’s largest ever cryptocurrency seizure, when more than 61,000 Bitcoins were discovered in digital wallets.

The cryptocurrency was worth £1.4 billion at the time, but its value has now risen to more than £3 billion, while 23,308 Bitcoin, now worth more than £1 billion, linked to the research, is still in circulation.

The Bitcoin is said to have originated from a £5 billion investment fraud carried out in China between 2014 and 2017.

Wen was not involved in the fraud but is alleged to have acted as a “front person” to help conceal the source of the money, some of which was used to buy cryptocurrency and smuggled out of China on laptops.

The women rented a £17,000-a-month house in Hampstead.  Image: CPS
Wen rented a £17,000-a-month house in Hampstead. Image: CPS

She was found guilty of money laundering related to 150 Bitcoin, now worth almost £8 million, between October 2017 and January 2022 last month after a retrial at Southwark Crown Court.

Wen was today jailed for six years and eight months by Judge Sally-Ann Hales KC, who told her: ‘I have no doubt you came to enjoy the better things in life.

“The evidence showed that you and, to some extent, your family members were generously rewarded for your services.”

The court heard Wen, who has been in custody as a category A prisoner since March 3, 2022, plans to appeal the conviction.

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Mark Harries KC, defending, said she was “a victim long before she became a criminal” and was “undoubtedly deceived and used” by the alleged mastermind of the operation.

Mr Harries said she was “plucked from the humblest of backgrounds”, working and living in “poor Chinese restaurants” in a “lifestyle of luxury” funded by Bitcoin.

Wen lived in a £5million six-bedroom house rented for £17,000 a month near Hampstead Heath and traveled the world, spending tens of thousands of pounds on designer clothes and shoes in Harrods.

She drove a £25,000 E-Class Mercedes and sent her son to the £6,000-a-year preparatory school on Heathside, the court heard.

Wen visits the Lindt chocolate factory in Switzerland.  Photo: Met police
Wen visits the Lindt chocolate factory in Switzerland. Photo: Met police

Wen tried to buy property in Hampstead.  Photo: Met police
Wen tried to buy an estate in Hampstead. Photo: Met police

She bought two apartments in Dubai for more than £500,000 and was considering buying a £10 million 18th-century Tuscan villa with sea views.

But attempts to buy multi-million pound properties in London led to anti-money laundering checks and none of the purchases went ahead as the source of the Bitcoin could not be explained.

Wen, who declared an income of just £5,979 in the 2016/2017 financial year, was unable to explain the source of the money and police first raided her home on October 31, 2018.

She accepted she was involved in a scheme over some of the cryptocurrency, but said she did not know or suspect it came from the proceeds of crime.

The court heard that once Bitcoin was converted into fiat money, it was loaded onto black prepaid cards that could be used anywhere in the world.

Wen, who has a law degree and a business administration degree, was acquitted of a string of other money laundering charges and Mr Harries said she had wanted to improve her and her son’s lives, initially through legitimate means.

She was the “conduit,” whose “simple job was pushing buttons for Bitcoin transactions” and she had “limited awareness of the extent of the criminal activity she had engaged in,” he said.

But prosecutor Gillian Jones QC said Wen was motivated by “greed” and her own “financial gain” was not subjected to “coercion, intimidation or exploitation”.

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