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UK Police Recover $1.78 Billion in Bitcoin During Investment Fraud Scheme Investigation

The scam came to light during the trial of a woman accused of laundering cryptocurrency for her former employer.
Cover Image Source: A visual representation of Bitcoin | Getty Images | Photo by Chesnot
Cover Image Source: A visual representation of Bitcoin | Getty Images | Photo by Chesnot

Authorities in the UK have confiscated approximately $1.78 billion worth of Bitcoin as part of an investigation into a Chinese investment fraud scheme. The details emerged during the trial of Jian Wen, a UK citizen accused of laundering Bitcoin for her former employer, Yadi Zhang, who is alleged to have stolen around £5 billion ($6.3 billion) from over 128,000 investors.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska:
Image Source: Photo by Karolina Grabowska | Pexels

The seizure is closely linked to the 2018 incident in which the UK police confiscated four devices containing more than 61,000 Bitcoins. The recovered Bitcoin was valued at £1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) by July 2021. The trial centers on Zhang, also known as Zhimin Qian, who was allegedly the mastermind behind the large-scale investment fraud, subsequently converting the funds into Bitcoin. Zhang has since evaded authorities and is currently on the run.

Wen, the defendant in the trial, stands accused of actively participating in the laundering process on behalf of Zhang. The charges assert that she played a role in converting Zhang's Bitcoin proceeds into various assets, including cash, property, jewelry, and luxury items. She pleaded not guilty and is set to go to trial for her alleged involvement in the money laundering activities linked to Zhang's investment fraud.

 A woman walks past the entrance of a cryptocurrency exchange office | Getty Images | Photo by Chris McGrath
Image Source: A woman walks past the entrance of a cryptocurrency exchange office | Getty Images | Photo by Chris McGrath

During the 2018 police raid at their rented London manor house, significant evidence was discovered, including laptops, pen drives, and notebooks storing passwords and crypto wallets containing Bitcoin valued at hundreds of millions of dollars each, as revealed by the prosecuting lawyer. The raid followed attempts by Wen to purchase two houses in London, with values of around $15 million and $30 million, respectively. However, these attempts failed due to her inability to provide sufficient proof of the funds' source to the involved lawyer.

In 2019, a Dubai-based investment adviser suggested that Wen sell the Bitcoin locally for cash. She relocated to the UK from China in 2007 and obtained British citizenship in 2018. Before her encounter with Zhang in 2017, she had been employed in Chinese takeaway restaurants. In a statement to the police, she mentioned she was Zhang's carer and translator, receiving 3,000 Bitcoin as a gift. Furthermore, she claimed to have limited knowledge about Bitcoin and believed it to be the source of Zhang's wealth. Wen, however, was arrested in 2021.

Photo by Roger Brown:
Image Source: Photo by Roger Brown | Pexels

The ongoing trial in the Southwark Crown Court brings attention to financial crimes involving digital assets. The case highlights the global nature of cryptocurrency-related fraud and the challenges law enforcement faces in pursuing criminals across borders. The Bitcoin seizure has prompted robust investigative efforts and international cooperation to combat fraudulent activities within the world of virtual currency.