A court in China has handed down six-year prison sentences to three men accused of laundering US$290 million worth of digital token Tether (USDT) in what was described as China’s largest money laundering case involving cryptocurrencies.
The Beijing Chaoyang District People’s Court found that the three men – two of them identified as Yuan Yafei and Chen Jinxin, and the third as Yao Yudong – were guilty of illegally converting CNY into USDT, from January 2016 till July 2018. Over the two years, they had used the tokens to buy and sell goods and services, and had also sold USDT on overseas exchanges.
The court found that the trio had laundered a total of 590 million CNY (around US$290 million at the time). It also said that the men had profited by taking advantage of the price differences between CNY and USDT in markets both at home and abroad.
The three men had been arrested in July last year in Xiamen, a coastal city in Fujian province. The court said that Yuan was the leader of the trio, and had organized and planned the scheme. Chen and Yao had both acted as his accomplices.
The case is the first to involve a large amount of money laundering involving cryptocurrencies in China, and is also the first case to result in imprisonment following the Chinese government’s crackdown on cryptocurrency-related crimes.