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This China Bitcoin (BTC) Fraud Dwarfs Recent Crypto Crime Stats

2 mins
Updated by Ryan Boltman
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In Brief

  • UK government probes Jian Wen for laundering $6 billion in Bitcoin stolen from a Chinese wealth fraud between 2014 and 2017.
  • Last year, crypto and digital payment firms faced hefty fines, totaling around $5 billion, for anti-money laundering faults.
  • Last year, US authorities seized $500,000 in crypto from a pig-butchering crime with alleged links to a Chinese businessman.
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The UK government is investigating Jian Wen, a British-Chinese woman, for laundering $6 billion worth of Bitcoin from a crime committed in China. The crypto funds came from a multi-year wealth management crime conducted by a woman called Yadi Zhang.

Zhang reportedly stole the money between 2014 and 2017 in China and converted the funds to Bitcoin before arriving in London under a false identity. Wen helped Zhang to convert Bitcoin into cash, jewelry, and other big-ticket items.

Bitcoin Crypto Charges Different From China Crime

According to the UK Crown Prosecution, Zhang was not involved in the multi-billion dollar fraud. Instead, the prosecution argues, she was the one who shielded Zhang from law enforcement.

Wen said she thought her former boss was an above-board businesswoman who made her fortune from jewelry, Bitcoin, and property. The trial may continue until early March.

Read more: What Is Bitcoin? A Guide to the Original Cryptocurrency

The use of Bitcoin to launder criminal proceeds has been scrutinized by authorities globally in 2023. Last year, they charged digital payment and crypto companies around $5 billion for various anti-money laundering failures. Crypto exchange Binance bore the brunt of the penalties, incurring a $4.3 billion fine from US regulators.

crypto crime china bitcoin
Crypto and Digital Payment Fines | Source: Financial Times

According to Dennis Kelleher, the CEO of Better Markets, the volume of high-profile crypto fraud cases surged in 2023. The CEO of FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried, and the CEO of Binance, Changpeng Zhao, were both guilty of financial crimes in 2023.

“The pervasive fraud and criminality in the high-profile crypto arena forced regulators and prosecutors to divert resources,” Kelleher said.

Pig Butchering Crypto Crime Increases

In China, in particular, crypto scams have grown rampant. A Reuters report in late 2023 found that Chinese businessman Wang Yicheng had received at least $90 million in crypto proceeds from so-called pig-butchering scams.

In these scams, criminals trick unsuspecting victims into a romantic relationship before encouraging them to invest in a cryptocurrency. The criminal usually owns the platform they ask victims to direct funds to.

Read more: Crypto Social Media Scams: How to Stay Safe

According to Reuters, Yicheng cultivated relationships with high-ranking Thai police officials while receiving proceeds from his criminal activity. Authorities in the US traced around $500,000 worth of crypto stolen from a resident in Massachusetts to an account controlled by Yicheng. In a separate case, the US Department of Justice seized $112 million in crypto from six crypto accounts related to pig-butchering.

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David Thomas
David Thomas graduated from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Durban, South Africa, with an Honors degree in electronic engineering. He worked as an engineer for eight years, developing software for industrial processes at South African automation specialist Autotronix (Pty) Ltd., mining control systems for AngloGold Ashanti, and consumer products at Inhep Digital Security, a domestic security company wholly owned by Swedish conglomerate Assa Abloy. He has experience writing software in C,...
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