Authorities have reportedly seized $1.7 billion worth of Bitcoin (BTC) after a former restaurant worker tried to buy a mansion worth around $30 million in London.
On January 30, Sky News reported that Jian Wen, a Chinese national who became a British citizen in 2018, was allegedly recruited to assist Zhiming Qian in money laundering. Qian, who came to the UK under an assumed name, needed help clearing funds from an investment fraud scheme running in China from 2014 to 2017.
Before meeting Qian, Wen worked in a Chinese restaurant in southeast London. The takeaway worker lived in a room below the restaurant before meeting her “boss”, who she introduced as working in an international jewelery business.
Prosecutor Gillian Jones said Wen tried to buy luxury goods and real estate in London with the BTC they had. These included a seven-bedroom mansion in Hampstead with a swimming pool. The property was listed for $30 million. However, the purchases never took place because Wen was unable to explain the source of the cryptocurrency assets.
Jones told jurors at his trial that Wen was not involved in Qian's fraud. However, Wen is accused of converting Bitcoin into cash, luxury goods and real estate on behalf of Qian.
Authorities reportedly raided the home Wen and Qian rented and seized various devices containing more than 61,000 BTC, worth approximately $1.7 billion, when it was accessed back in 2021.
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Wen initially claimed that the cryptocurrency she owned had been mined. She then changed her story to say it was a “love gift” by presenting a document proving she had received 3,000 BTC from Qian.
Wen is now standing trial at Southwark Crown Court on three counts of money laundering between October 2017 and January 2022. She denies all charges brought against her. Meanwhile, Qian has already fled the UK and is still at large.