Hospitality worker caught with $2.5B Bitcoin found guilty of money laundering

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A former hospitality worker in the United Kingdom has reportedly been found guilty of money laundering more than the equivalent of $2.5 billion worth of Bitcoin (BTC) in a UK court that specializes in heavy fraud cases.

According to a recent BBC report, the Southwark Crown Court has found Jian Wen of money laundering $2.5 billion worth of Bitcoin after a five-year investigation, involving scrutiny of 48 electronic devices and thousands of digital files, many of which were translated from Mandarin.

Wen’s change in lifestyle was what drew the attention from the authorities. In 2017, she reportedly went from living in a flat above a Chinese restaurant in Leeds to renting a six-bedroom house in North London costing approximately $21,420 per month.

On Jan. 31, Cointelegraph reported that it was the attempted purchase of a $30 million mansion in London that was the ultimate red flag for the authorities to investigate her. 

During the same year, she reportedly attempted to purchase a series of expensive houses in London but faced challenges passing money-laundering checks, despite her claims of earning millions from Bitcoin mining.

Related: German authorities seize 50K BTC connected to piracy websites

The UK police claimed that the seizure was the “largest of its kind in the UK.” Wen was convicted of “entering into or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement,” and is due to be sentenced on May 10.

CPS chief crown prosecutor Andrew Penhale reiterated digital assets prominent use in criminal activity in recent times:

“Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are increasingly being used by organized criminals to disguise and transfer assets, so that fraudsters may enjoy the benefits of their criminal conduct.”

However, a recent report from the United States Treasury Department contradicts the common claim by authorities that crypto is a popular choice for money laundering, declaring that cash continues to be the preferred option.

On Feb. 8, Cointelegraph reported t the Treasury highlighted the anonymity and stability of cash as a means of payment as a primary reason why it remains the preferred method of laundering illicit proceeds.

Similarly, stock exchange company Nasdaq recently released its “Global Financial Crime Report,” which highlights data related to financial crime over the past year, and there was no mention of Bitcoin or crypto.

Yet, it did estimate that in 2023, around $3.1 trillion in illicit funds flowed through the global financial system.

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