Jian Wen, a Chinese woman with dual British citizenship, was arrested by UK authorities. According to the charges, Wen allegedly helped fugitive Yadi Zhang to embezzle $2.6 billion in Bitcoin (BTC) obtained in a fraudulent scheme that harmed more than 130,000 investors.
Along with the arrests, authorities seized devices containing 61,000 BTC, or about $2.6 billion in today's value. But the alleged scheme allegedly defrauded these investors of more than $6 billion. Zhang attracted investors in China and enlisted the help of Wen, who was arrested in London.
A bogus Chinese investment scam
Following his arrest, Jian Wen faces trial in England. He faces three counts of money laundering following his involvement with Zhang, whose real name is Jimin Qian.
According to prosecutors, Zhang stole £5 billion ($6.34 billion) from Chinese investors between 2014 and 2017 through a bogus wealth management scheme. The scheme had nothing to do with Bitcoin, but Zhang allegedly converted the money into cryptocurrency to hide it. . Wen worked for Zhang, which facilitated the operation of the two.
Eventually, Zhang left China for London in 2017 and assumed a false identity to avoid Chinese authorities. Wen has lived in the United Kingdom since 2007 and became a British citizen in 2018. According to Gillian Jones, a lawyer from the British Crown Prosecution Service, Wen acted as Zhang's predecessor.
Jones told the jury in a London court that Wen Zhang helped him convert some of his BTC into real estate, cash, jewelry and other luxury goods. Wen tried to buy Zhang a £12.5 million property in London in 2018, the lawyer says. But the law firm that owned the place couldn't trace BTC's origin and didn't close the deal.
Wen, meanwhile, pleaded not guilty, saying he was Zhang's caretaker and that he believed his bitcoins were obtained from legitimate sources.
A monumental seizure
The prosecution revealed to the jury that in 2018 the Metropolitan Police seized four separate devices containing more than 61,000 BTC, which were located at a property where Wen and Zhang lived at the time. As of 2021, the value of all cryptocurrencies seized by the police is £1.4 billion ($1.77 billion).
The numbers make it one of the largest seizures worldwide. At current prices, 61,000 BTC is worth $2.6 billion.
Although Wen's trial is still ongoing, Zhang has left the United Kingdom and prosecutors say he is at large and wanted by law enforcement agencies.
In related news, German police seized 50,000 BTC worth more than $2 billion from two men who allegedly violated the country's copyright laws by running a pirated website.
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