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Former Takeaway Worker Jailed over Crypto Money Laundering

Author: Syedur Rahman  29 May 2024
2 min read

Syed Rahman summarises how Jian Wen was found with more than £2 billion in Bitcoin.

A woman who had worked at a takeaway has been jailed for six years and eight months after being found with Bitcoin worth more than £2 billion.

Jian Wen, 42, was sentenced after being convicted in March of entering into or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement, relating to the proceeds of fraud. Wen, from Hendon, north London, was involved in converting the currency into assets, including multi-million-pound houses and jewellery.

The Metropolitan Police had described the £2 billion seizure as the largest of its kind in the UK.

Wen was living in a flat above a Chinese restaurant in Leeds when she became involved in the criminal activity. But in 2017, she moved into a six-bedroom London house, which cost more than £17,000 a month to rent. 

Wen posed as an employee of an international jewellery business and moved her son to the UK to attend private school. She tried to buy a number of expensive houses in London but did not pass the necessary money laundering checks, as her claims to be legitimately earning millions by mining Bitcoin were not believed. She did, however, manage to buy jewellery worth tens of thousands of pounds in Zurich and a number of properties in Dubai.

Another person who is thought to be behind the fraud that generated the money is yet to be caught by the authorities.

Det Ch Supt Jason Prins, whose team led the investigation, said the "sheer scale" of the operation "demonstrates how international criminals seek to exploit cryptocurrency for illegal purposes".

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has obtained a freezing order from the High Court while it carries out a civil recovery investigation that could lead to the forfeiture of the Bitcoin. Fluctuations in the value of Bitcoin mean that it could now be worth around £3.4 billion.

CPS chief crown prosecutor Andrew Penhale said Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies "are increasingly being used by organised criminals to disguise and transfer assets, so that fraudsters may enjoy the benefits of their criminal conduct".

This is a case that could be said to justify the new powers granted to the police, under the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023, to seize crypto currencies. However, this case should not be considered in isolation. This is obviously a great news story that shows that the police are now being afforded greater powers to combat criminal activity around crypto. But it could also be argued that the police had adequate powers to pursue bad actors but that there have been other issues at the heart of the police’s struggles with crypto, such as the technology or resources available to them.

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Syedur Rahman is known for his in-depth experience of serious fraud, white-collar crime and serious crime cases, as well as his expertise in worldwide asset tracing and recovery, international arbitration, civil recovery, cryptocurrency and high-stakes commercial disputes.

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