A woman who studied law in both England and China was today sentenced to more than six years in prison for her involvement in a money laundering arrangement.

Jian Wen’s involvement was described as ‘sophisticated and involved significant planning’ by Her Honour Judge Hales KC sitting at Southwark Crown Court.

The former takeaway worker was convicted earlier this year of entering into or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement for her part in converting bitcoin into cash and other assets on behalf of another. 

Wen was caught out by ‘know your client’ questions asked by Mishcon de Reya when she attempted, and failed, to buy multi-million-pound properties in London. She had attempted to purchase properties in London valued at £4.5m, £23.5m and £12.5m between autumn 2017 and late 2018.

Jian WENsocialweb

Wen: caught out by 'know your client' questions

She later purchased two properties in Dubai, both of which have since been sold.

The court heard that Wen laundered £809,832.54 worth of bitcoin.

Gillian Jones, prosecuting, said: ‘Her involvement was due to greed, and it was for financial gain.’

The bitcoin is alleged to have come from a fraudulent investment scam in China. There is no suggestion that Wen was involved in the fraud or knew anything about it, the court heard.

Mark Harries KC, defending, told the court Wen was a ‘victim’ and ‘if not pressure [then] influence]’ from others caused her ‘to act in the way that she did’ which she ‘bitterly regrets’. He added: ‘She had limited awareness of the extent of the criminal activity to which she lent herself.

‘She was undoubtedly duped and used and yes, of course the conviction indicates that position changed late in the day but perhaps at a time when escape was more difficult.’

The court heard Wen studied law in China before coming to the UK on a spousal visa. Wen, who now has British citizenship, returned to her studies after separating from her husband and obtained a diploma in law as well as a degree in economics.

Sentencing, the judge said: ‘Even on the most generous view, your involvement in this wallet continued for almost a year. I do not accept that in respect of this wallet you did no more than perform a limited role under direction. This was a wallet that you held, you made the transfers, you made the trips to Dubai, you conducted all the communication with third parties. The properties were purchased in your name, you gave the Powers of Attorney.

‘In respect of this wallet you exercised a degree of autonomy and acted for your own benefit.’

The judge said she did not agree that Wen’s involvement had ‘any element of exploitation’. She added: ‘I do not agree with counsel that characterises you as a victim.’

Wen has been in custody since her arrest in March 2022. Sentencing Wen, who did not react, to 80 months imprisonment, the judge said: ‘Only a custodial sentence is appropriate. I sentence you to the least possible sentence that I can.’