In a significant development, the UK police have confiscated 61,000 Bitcoin, believed to be the proceeds of a large-scale Chinese wealth management scam. The case involves Jian Wen, a Chinese-British woman facing charges in London for her alleged role in helping fugitive Yadi Zhang launder Bitcoin obtained from the ill-gotten gains of a previous investment fraud that affected nearly 130,000 investors.
Authorities have seized devices containing over 61,000 Bitcoin, which originated from $6.34 billion previously stolen by Zhang from investors in China.
The investment fraud orchestrated by Yadi Zhang, whose real name is Zhimin Qian, involved a fake wealth management scheme that defrauded unsuspecting investors in China of £5 billion ($6.34 billion) between 2014 and 2017. The stolen funds were later converted into Bitcoin. Zhang fled China for London in 2017, assuming a fake identity to evade Chinese authorities.
Jian Wen, currently on trial, faces three charges of money laundering related to her involvement with Zhang. Prosecutors allege that Wen acted as a front person for Zhang. According to the Crown Prosecution Service’s counsel, Gillian Jones KC, Wen helped Zhang convert some of her BTC holdings into property, cash, jewelry, and luxury items. Wen’s attempt to purchase a London property worth £12.5 million for Zhang in 2018 through a law firm fell through because the firm could not determine the source of the Bitcoin.
Wen has pleaded not guilty, claiming that she served as Zhang’s caregiver and believed that Zhang’s Bitcoin was obtained from legitimate sources.
The prosecution disclosed that in 2018, the Metropolitan Police seized four devices containing over 61,000 BTC from a safety deposit box and a property where Wen and Zhang resided at the time. The confiscated cryptocurrency was valued at £1.4 billion ($1.77 billion) in 2021, making it one of the largest seizures globally. At the current Bitcoin price, 61,000 BTC is worth $2.6 billion.
While Wen’s trial is ongoing, Zhang is reported to have fled the UK, with prosecutors stating that she remains at large.
In a related case, German police seized more than 50,000 Bitcoin worth over $2 billion from two individuals allegedly involved in copyright violations through their operation of a piracy website.