UK Police Holding Bitcoin Worth £1.4 Billion – Report

British police have been holding billions of dollars worth of Bitcoin for six years, after they seized four devices from a safety deposit box and a property.

According to the Financial Times, the Metropolitan Police had in 2018 seized more than £1.4bn ($3.55bn) worth of bitcoin derived from a huge investment fraud in China.

This is said to be one of the world’s largest seizures, and was revealed in a London court on Tuesday, during trial of a woman accused of laundering cryptocurrency for her former employer.

Image credit: Pexels

Bitcoin seizure

The FT reported that the £1.4bn worth of bitcoin was derived from a huge investment fraud in China.

Jian Wen, aged 42, is accused of laundering bitcoin on behalf of her former employer, an alleged fugitive from Chinese authorities.

Wen has pleaded not guilty.

The Financial Times reported that back in 2018 the UK police had seized four separate devices containing more than 61,000 bitcoin from a safety deposit box and a property where Wen and her then-employer, Yadi Zhang, lived at the time, Southwark Crown Court heard.

The value of the bitcoin by the time all of the cryptocurrency had been recovered by the police, in July 2021, reportedly added up to about £1.4bn.

The prosecution told the jury at the start of the trial on Monday that the bitcoin derived from an investment fraud Zhang had allegedly committed in China between 2014 and 2017.

Zhang, whose real name is Zhimin Qian, allegedly stole roughly £5bn from more than 128,000 investors. She then allegedly converted the money into bitcoin and arrived, under a false identity, in London in 2017, the court heard.

Zhang has since fled the UK and remains at large, according to British prosecutors.

Wen however is not accused of any involvement in that fraud. But she has been charged of helping to convert some of Zhang’s bitcoin into cash, jewellery and other luxury items, as well as property, while allegedly knowing it was the proceeds of crime.

Prosecution allegations

The FT cited Gillian Jones KC, counsel for the Crown Prosecution Service, as telling the jury on Tuesday that Wen had tried to purchase a £12.5 million London property on behalf of Zhang in 2018 using the law firm Mishcon de Reya.

The purchase had failed because the law firm could not verify the source of the bitcoin, the jury heard.

In October 2018, the Met police froze money held by Mishcon in its client account.

According to the FT, Wen had moved to the UK in 2007 from China and became a British citizen in 2018. She described herself as Zhang’s “carer” and said she believed all of Zhang’s bitcoin had derived from legitimate business activities, Jones told the jury.

But Jones KC said on Monday that Wen was a “front person” who was paid to “keep Ms Zhang in the background”.

The trial continues.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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