Wei Chen, a successful businesswoman and millionaire entrepreneur, has found herself in a legal tangle as her bank account was frozen amid suspicions of money laundering. The incident unfolded when Chen made multiple visits to her local Lloyd’s branch in the home counties, withdrawing a total of £85,000 in cash over a span of 33 days. These transactions raised red flags due to their frequency and large amounts.

Chen stated that the funds were provided to her by a Taiwanese businessman named Chien-Hung Huang. Huang, who resides in a sprawling seven-bedroom home in Stanmore, northwest London, boasts business interests across Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the UK. Chen had been living in the UK under an entrepreneur visa, seeking to expand her business endeavors.

Allegedly, Chen received the cash from Huang in batches of up to £4,000, claiming that the money was a loan intended to be repaid using a portion of the £1.73 million she earned from the sale of a property in China. Chen’s situation was further complicated by her inability to return to China in 2021 due to strict COVID-19 restrictions.

Chen and her husband reportedly faced substantial financial commitments, including £26,000 yearly for rent and £24,000 for their children’s tuition fees. This information was presented in court as part of Chen’s defense.

Detective Constable Nicholas Widdison, a financial investigator, argued that Chen had evaded China’s strict regulations on money transfers. Some of the proceeds from the sale of Chen’s property were alleged to have remained in China, held in a bank account linked to a woman referred to as QC, Huang’s wife. This situation resembled a form of Chinese underground banking, where money remains in China, and equivalent funds are provided from the UK.

Huang’s explanations for the origin of the £85,000 cash were met with skepticism by law enforcement. Huang claimed the money came from acting as a guardian for students who paid him £8,000 each, brought from China. However, police inquiries raised doubts about the credibility of these claims.

While Chen maintained that she accepted the money in good faith, the prosecution argued that she should have been aware that the funds were potentially ill-gotten. Chen’s joint HSBC accounts, reportedly holding around £237,000, could have covered her expenses, rendering the use of the Lloyd’s account funds unnecessary.

Chen’s preference for receiving cash instead of a wire transfer or direct payment to her bank account was attributed to cultural reasons. She believed that cash would not pose any issues, but later recognised the potential for misunderstanding in the UK context.

The defense pointed out that Chen and Huang had interacted since her arrival in the UK in 2018, with Huang offering financial assistance after learning of her travel restrictions. Huang’s financial status was highlighted, referencing Hong Kong Inland Revenue documents indicating an income of 2.2 million Hong Kong dollars.

Although Thames Valley Police sought to forfeit the funds in Chen’s account on the basis of suspected criminal activity, Chen herself has not been charged with any offence. The argument revolves around whether Chen should have known or conducted reasonable inquiries to ascertain the legitimacy of the funds’ origin.