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Chinese Fraud Victims Seek Return of Seized £3 Billion Bitcoin in UK

Chinese Fraud Victims Seek Return of Seized £3 Billion Bitcoin in UK

Apr 15, 2024

Chinese Fraud Victims Seek Return of Seized £3 Billion Bitcoin in UK

Over 128,000 Chinese fraud victims are demanding the return of more than £3 billion worth of bitcoin that was confiscated by UK authorities. The funds were seized during a money laundering investigation linked to an elaborate scam run by Tianjin Lantian Gerui Electronic Technology, which defrauded investors of approximately £5 billion between 2014 and 2017.

The scam came to light when a Chinese restaurant worker, Jian Wen, was caught attempting to buy a £23.5 million property with bitcoin. Her purchase attempt aroused suspicion, leading to a 2018 raid where authorities seized approximately 61,000 bitcoin from Wen and her employer, Zhimin Qian, who is believed to be the mastermind behind the fraudulent scheme.

Following the raid, Jian Wen was charged and found guilty by Southwark Crown Court on multiple counts of money laundering. She was accused of helping Qian to launder the proceeds of the scam into cash, jewelry, and real estate. Despite her conviction, the whereabouts of Qian remain unknown.

Victims have submitted a letter to China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Public Security, imploring them to initiate talks with the UK government. They aim to prove their rightful ownership of the Bitcoin and prevent the UK from permanently confiscating it. The group has collected nearly 2,500 signatures to support their cause. One victim's child, who chose to remain anonymous, emphasized the urgency of their plea: "There is no time to lose. We do not want, and will never accept, a situation where Bitcoins are confiscated by the UK and not returned to us."

Although the victims have faced significant financial losses, some have received partial relief. A Chinese task force has managed to reimburse victims with partial refunds, totaling $309 million, representing 8% and 5% of their original investment from the seized assets of Lantian Gerui.

As of now, the UK authorities have not clarified how they will handle the seized bitcoin. The Crown Prosecution Service has indicated that a property freezing order is in place and that discussions on confiscation will occur in September. Furthermore, a civil recovery investigation is underway, which could lead to the forfeiture of the assets.

The Chinese embassy in London has not yet responded to requests for comment, and the Metropolitan Police have not issued a statement following the initial seizure announcement in March.

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