Former takeaway worker found with £2bn worth of Bitcoin convicted of money laundering

Piles of cash were discovered during police searches connected to Wen
Piles of cash were discovered during police searches connected to Wen - UNPIXS

A former takeaway worker found with Bitcoin wallets worth more than £2 billion has been convicted of a crime linked to money laundering.

Jian Wen, 42, was living in a flat above a Chinese restaurant in Leeds when she became involved in converting the cryptocurrency into assets, including multi-million pound houses and thousands of pounds worth of jewellery.

The Bitcoin seizure is thought to be the biggest ever of its kind.

The value of the Bitcoin was worth around £2bn at the time of initial estimates, but is understood to have increased to around £3.4bn because of fluctuation in the value of the cryptocurrency.

Prosecutors said there was no legitimate evidence for how the Bitcoin had been acquired and allege it is linked to an investment fraud in China.

Another suspect is thought to be behind the fraud but they remain at large.

Wen’s new lifestyle included moving into a six-bedroom house in north London in 2017, with rent of more than £17,000 per month, where she posed as an employee of an international jewellery business, and moved her son to the UK to attend private school, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

From autumn 2017 she tried to buy a string of expensive houses in London but struggled to pass money-laundering checks, and her claims that she had earned millions mining Bitcoin were not believed.

Jian Wen, 42, is due to be sentenced on May 10
Jian Wen, 42, is due to be sentenced on May 10 - UNPIXS

She also travelled abroad, buying jewellery worth tens of thousands of pounds in Zurich and buying properties in Dubai in 2019.

On Wednesday, Wen was convicted of one count of entering into or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement at Southwark Crown Court.

She is due to be sentenced on May 10.

The guilty charge is linked to 150 Bitcoin being laundered which is worth around £7.5 million, but the Metropolitan Police said its investigation had linked her to a wider fraudulent operation and it seized more than 61,000 Bitcoin. One Bitcoin was worth more than £52,000 on Wednesday.

Jian Wen on holiday in Germany
Jian Wen on holiday in Germany - UNPIXS

The 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.

Chief 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 case, involving the largest cryptocurrency seizure in the UK, illustrates the scale of criminal proceeds available to those fraudsters.

“Although the original fraudster remains at large, the Metropolitan Police and CPS have successfully secured a money laundering conviction against Jian Wen, an individual employed to launder criminal proceeds.

“The CPS will now work to ensure, through criminal confiscation and civil proceedings, that the criminal assets remain beyond the fraudsters’ reach.

“The CPS is committed to working closely with law enforcement and investigatory authorities, to bring to justice individuals and companies who engage in laundering criminal proceeds through cryptocurrency.”

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.