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Ex-takeaway worker on trial after £1.4bn Bitcoin seizure says ‘I was duped’

A former Chinese takeaway worker on trial after police seized Bitcoin worth £1.4bn has told a jury she was “duped” by the woman who defrauded the money.

Jian Wen, 42, is alleged to have acted as a “front person” to help launder some of the profits of a £5bn investment fraud carried out in China by Zhimin Qian between 2014 and 2017.

Qian, which means money in Chinese, fled the UK after police raided the six-bedroom house the women rented for more than £17,000 a month near Hampstead Heath in northwest London, a court has heard.

Officers seized devices from the property, as well as a safety deposit box containing digital wallets holding more than 61,000 Bitcoin, valued at more than £1.4bn, when police gained access in the summer of 2021.

Wen is on trial at Southwark Crown Court, where she denies three counts of money laundering, relating to three cryptocurrency wallets, between October 2017 and January 2022.

Manor House, West Heath Close, London, Greater London NW3 7NJ
Image: The women rented a £17,000-a-month house near Hampstead Heath. Pic: Google Street View

She accepts she was involved in an arrangement dealing with cryptocurrency but told jurors: “I didn’t know her Bitcoin came from whatever the prosecution has accused me of. I had no idea at all.”

Wen told the jury “I have no idea where she is” after Qian, who came to the UK using the false identity Yadi Zhang on a St Kitts and Nevis passport, vanished a day before she was due to be interviewed by police on 1 September 2020.

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“I think I was duped,” she said. “I’m ashamed of saying that.”

Wen wept as she said: “We were close… but looking back now I was used badly.”

She told jurors she was working in a takeaway in southeast London when she first met Zhang after applying to become her “butler”, believing she was a businesswoman with an international jewellery and antiques firm.

Lyndhurst Road near Hampstead village
Image: A seven-bedroom house was on the market for £23.5m. Pic: Google Street View

Prosecutors say Qian bought cryptocurrency to get the proceeds of the fraud out of the country and needed to convert the Bitcoin back into cash or “property, jewellery or other high-value items”.

The court has heard the pair travelled extensively throughout Europe, selling Bitcoin and buying fine jewellery, including watches worth around £49,300 and £69,900 from Van Cleef & Arpels in Switzerland.

Wen tried to buy properties in London, including a seven-bedroom Hampstead mansion with a swimming pool, which was on the market for £23.5m, and a £12.5m eight-bedroom home with a cinema and gym.

But none of the purchases went ahead because the source of the Bitcoin couldn’t be explained, the court has heard.

The trial continues

Sky News Source