Ex-takeaway worker with Bitcoin worth more than £2bn jailed for six years

A former takeaway worker found with Bitcoin wallets worth more than £2 billion has been jailed for over six years following a five-year cryptocurrency investigation.

Jian Wen, 42, was living in a flat above a Chinese restaurant in Leeds when she became involved in a criminal racket 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.

She was sentenced to six years and eight months' imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday for entering into or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement.

Prosecutors previously said there was no legitimate evidence for how the Bitcoin had been acquired and alleged 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 saw her move 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 (CPS) 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.

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

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

The guilty charge is linked to 150 Bitcoin being laundered which at the relevant time had a value of £1.7million, but the Metropolitan Police said its investigation had linked her to a wider fraudulent operation and it seized more than 61,000 Bitcoin.

The CPS obtained a freezing order from the High Court while it carried out a civil recovery investigation.

Following Wen’s sentencing Commander Steve Clayman, whose team led the Met Police investigation, said: “Thanks to the hard work and perseverance of highly skilled detectives in the Met, we have been able to disrupt a sophisticated economic crime operation – the sheer scale of which demonstrates how international criminals seek to exploit cryptocurrency for illegal purposes.

“Our team has helped secure justice and has persevered to trace this Bitcoin and identify the criminality it was linked to."