Authorities reportedly confiscated Bitcoin (BTC) worth $1.7 billion after a former restaurant worker attempted to buy a mansion worth about $30 million in London.

On Jan. 30, Sky News reported that Jian Wen, a Chinese national who became a British citizen in 2018, was allegedly recruited to assist Zhimin Qian in money laundering. Qian, who went to the United Kingdom under a false identity, needed help cleaning up the funds taken from an investment fraud scheme facilitated in China from 2014 to 2017. 

Wen used to work at a Chinese restaurant in southeast London before meeting Qian. The takeaway worker lived in a room underneath the restaurant before she met her “boss,” whom she introduced as working in an international jewelry business.

Prosecutor Gillian Jones KC said that Wen attempted to buy luxury items and real estate in London with the BTC they held. This included a seven-bedroom mansion in Hampstead with a swimming pool. The property was on the market for $30 million. However, the purchases never went through as Wen could not explain the source of the crypto assets.

Image of the property that Jian Wen attempted to purchase. Source: Google Street View (via Sky New)

Jones told the jury at the trial that Wen was not involved in the fraud committed by Qian. However, Wen is accused of converting Bitcoin into cash, luxury items and real estate on behalf of Qian.

Authorities reportedly raided a house that Wen and Qian rented and confiscated various devices containing more than 61,000 BTC, worth about $1.7 billion when it was accessed back in 2021.

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Initially, Wen claimed that the crypto she held had been mined. Then, she changed her story, saying it was a “love present,” presenting a deed stating that she received 3,000 BTC from Qian.

Wen is now on trial at the Southwark Crown Court for three counts of money laundering between October 2017 and January 2022. She denies all the charges against her. Meanwhile, Qian has already fled the U.K. and is still at large.

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