Former takeaway worker who lived in London mansion jailed over role in £5bn Bitcoin ring

A woman in a German street
Jian Wen came to the attention of the police when she tried to buy a string of expensive houses in London - UNPIXS

A former Chinese takeaway worker who lived in a £5m Hampstead Heath mansion has been jailed for her part in a £5bn Bitcoin ring.

Jian Wen, 42, acted as a front in a money laundering scheme which saw the cryptocurrency converted into assets, including multi-million pound houses and thousands of pounds worth of jewellery.

She had been living in a flat above a Chinese restaurant in Leeds when she became involved in the scam in 2017, and within months had moved into a six-bedroom house in north London with rent of more than £17,000 per month.

She came to the attention of police when she tried to buy a string of expensive houses in London but failed money laundering checks.

When police raided the home, known as Manor House, more than 61,000 Bitcoin was discovered in digital wallets, worth more than £1.4bn at the time and now valued at more than £3bn.

It was the biggest seizure of Bitcoin in the UK ever, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Money found during police searches in connection to Wen
Money found during police searches in connection to Wen - UNPIXS

At Southwark Crown Court on Friday, Wen was jailed for six years and eight months.

Wen arrived in the UK in 2007 and lived modestly in Leeds between 2011 and 2017 before working at a Chinese takeaway in Abbey Wood, southeast London.

She answered an advert on Chinese social media app WeChat to be a “butler” for a woman who claimed to run a business trading in diamonds and antiques across the world.

In fact, she was involved in an arrangement which saw Bitcoin converted into a form of currency which could be used anywhere in the world.

The Bitcoin is alleged to have come from a £5bn investment scam carried out in China between 2014 and 2017 in which more than 128,000 investors were ripped off.

As well as moving into a new home in Hampstead Heath, Wen drove a £25,000 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, spent £30,000-a-month at Harrods, and flew her son over from China to attend the £6,000-a-term Heathside School.

She also travelled across Europe selling Bitcoin to buy expensive jewellery including watches worth up to £70,000 from Van Cleef and Arpels in Switzerland.

Mugshot of a woman with long black hair
More than 61,000 was discovered in Jian Wen's Bitcoin wallets - UNPIXS

Appearing in court after the Bitcoin was seized, Wen insisted she had no idea the cryptocurrency came from the proceeds of fraud and claimed she had been duped by one of the fraudsters.

She said she helped run a legitimate jewellery business which had branches in Singapore, Malaysia and China.

But Judge Sally-Ann Hales, KC, told her: “I have no doubt that you came to enjoy the better things in life.

“Evidence shows that you were generously rewarded for your services.

“It is submitted on your behalf that your culpability falls into the medium range. I do not agree. The offending was sophisticated and it involved significant planning.

“‘I do not agree that your involvement in the offence was due to any element of exploitation.

“I do not agree with your counsel’s characterisation of you as a victim.”

The prosecutor, Gillian Jones KC, added: “To legitimately mine the Bitcoin seized in this investigation, 61,000 BTC, you would have to use and pay for roughly the same amount of electricity as that required to power 25,000 domestic households for a year – that’s the size of a town.”