UK Authorities Seize $1.7 Billion BTC From Chinese Investment Scheme

The 30 Million Bitcoin House
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UK Law Enforcement seized Bitcoin worth over $1.7 billion following an attempt by Jian Wen, a former Chinese takeaway worker, to purchase a $30m mansion in Hampstead with Bitcoin. The funds were linked to a money laundering $6.2 billion investment fraud in China by Zhimin Qian. The accused acted as a “front person” in the scheme, attempting to launder the proceeds through luxury purchases and real estate, and is currently on trial facing three counts of money laundering.

Key Insights

  • Jian Wen attempted to purchase a mansion in Hampstead valued at about $30 million, allegedly to launder money from a $6.2 billion investment fraud in China.
  • Wen initially alleged the Bitcoin was mined or received as a “love present” from Qian, evidenced by a deed claiming she was given 3,000 BTC.
  • The fraud took place between 2014 and 2017
  • Authorities confiscated 61,000 Bitcoin exceeding $1.7 billion associated with this scheme.
  • Wen is undergoing trial at Southwark Crown Court, denying three counts of money laundering from October 2017 to January 2022.

United Kingdom authorities have, for the first time, disclosed a seizure that occurred in 2018 worth $1.7 billion in Bitcoin during court proceedings. A former restaurant worker and Chinese national allegedly attempted to purchase a luxury property in London worth an estimated $30 million with Bitcoin.  

Jian Wen, a 42-year-old Chinese national who became a UK citizen in 2018, worked as an employee at a Chinese takeaway restaurant in southeast London. Wen resided in a room underneath the restaurant until she was introduced to her “boss” Yadi Zhang (Zhimin Qian).

Qian, who went to the United Kingdom with a false identity, hired Wen to assist him with laundering funds acquired from a fraudulent investment scheme facilitated in China from 2014 to 2017. 

What We Know About the Incident

Jian Wen’s alleged involvement in laundering Bitcoin was discovered after she failed to purchase luxury properties in London. The properties were valued at an estimated $15 million and $30 million. 

According to documents filed in a court hearing, prosecutor Gillian Jones confirmed that Wen attempted to buy luxury items and real estate in London with Bitcoin. The property sale fell through after Wen had disclosed the origins of the crypto assets. This wasn’t from the use of Fraud Shops

Initially, when questioned on the source of the digital assets, Wen first claimed the cryptocurrency had been mined. She also claimed that the funds were a “love present” from Qian with the intention of purchasing their first home. Wen then produced a deed indicating that she received 3,000 BTC from Qian.

“This is quite the paycheck. The jury must scrutinize the nature of this alleged gift. Whether it was a gesture from a generous benefactor happy with the provided care, or a facade to legitimize the funds’ origins when Wen tried to buy high-value property on behalf of Zhang.”

Prosecutor Gillian Jones

The investigation unravelled as authorities discovered Wen’s online searches for using Bitcoin to purchase properties and evade detection. Her search history also revealed a dubious offer from a Dubai-based adviser offering to exchange Bitcoin for cash.

Authorities then raided the premises where Qian and Wen reportedly rented and confiscated four devices stored in a safe deposit box. Wen was subsequently arrested by authorities in 2021. Police then gained access to the various devices containing more than 61,000 BTC, worth approximately $1.7 billion at the time. 

At the trial hearing, the prosecution alleged that thousands of Bitcoins originated from an investment scheme conducted in China from 2014 to 2017. Qian’s fraudulent scheme targeted over 128,000 investors and amassed over $6 billion.

Jones also told the jury that Wen had no involvement with the fraudulent scheme facilitated by Qian. However, Wen is accused of “converting Bitcoin into cash, jewelry, luxury items, and real estate” on behalf of Qian.

News of the seizure highlights the second significant case in January. Early in the month, a collaborative effort between Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation seized around 50,000 BTC.

The investigation centred around two individuals operating an illicit online file-sharing service. The individuals amassed a substantial amount of BTC through profits from the operation, which ceased in 2013. 

Image of seven-bedroom luxury homestead in Hampstead, Wen attempted to purchase with Bitcoin  (Source: Google Street View)


Jian Wen is currently on trial at the Southwark Crown Court for three counts of money laundering between October 2017 and January 2022. Wen pleaded not guilty and denied all the charges laid against her. 

Meanwhile, Qian is still at large and believed to have fled the United Kingdom. Calls have been made for his capture, and he is wanted in China.