Roja Ignatova, the FBI’s most wanted ‘Crypto Queen’

On Thursday, Ruja Ignatova became the first cryptocurrency fugitive to appear on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. His project, nicknamed “OneCoin,” has become one of the biggest financial scams since Bernard Madoff.

He disappeared five years ago. On Thursday, June 30, the FBI decided to make Roja Ignatova one of its priority targets. He is suspected of organizing the largest scam in the history of cryptocurrency And one of the most expensive victims, this 42-year-old Bulgarian, who called herself the “Queen of Cryptocurrency,” was included in the famous list of the ten most wanted criminals in the United States.

The The FBI offered up to $100,000 to help locate this woman. A month ago, Europol promised 5,000 euros to anyone who could provide information leading to his arrest.

The Big Promise of the Cryptocurrency OneCoin

Jimmy Bartlett, a British journalist who spent his final years trying to track down Ruja Ignatova, told Vice and even published “Queen of Crypto” for a year, a podcast for the BBC to talk about it.

for him, Little envy Bernard Madoff, The notorious fraudulent American financier who lost victims of his scam of more than 60 billion dollars in the late 2000s. Ruja Ignatova stole at least $4 billion from millions of victims in nearly 70 countries.

Its history is unknown: at the time it was in operation, cryptocurrencies, bitcoin and the like were not part of the trending topics and were not of public opinion. However, his epic criminal scam, which began in 2014, involved other members, including mafia groups in Eastern Europe.

Roja Ignatova He is the creator of ‘OneCoin’, one of countless cryptocurrencies that have sought to compete with Bitcoin over the past decade.. Unlike 99% of other cryptocurrency competitors, “OneCoin” has managed to attract the interest of a wide audience, far from the traditional circle of insiders.

There are a plethora of newspaper articles devoted to images of victims, from the suburbs of Glasgow to rural Uganda to the Franco-Belgium border.

in 2006, At the height of her fame, Ruja Ignatova was able to fill prestigious venues such as the “Wembley Arena” in London to promote her OneCoin benefits.which is supposed to “replace Bitcoin in less than two years”.

Through her personality, the scammer managed to convince about three million investors by 2016. Her strategy was to appear calm, confident, while showing off her law degree and alleged work for the prestigious consultancy McKinsey.notes the Wall Street Journal.

Ruja Ignatova was also doing television sales and appeared as one of the main promoters of an event sponsored by The Economist, which was 100% funded by OneCoin.

small pyramid sale cult

Ignatova has also managed to attract specialists in multi-level sales, hierarchical sales systems that, in the end, only benefit economically those at the top of the pyramid.

This was the true nature of “OneCoin”. Ruja Ignatova only sold “crypto-vent” to members of her community. He asked them to buy, with real coins, fake money, which at that time was impossible to change into real currency..

As in any pyramid scheme, Cryptocoin and its minions promised to compensate those who recruited new members of the Family.

Because this is how Ruja Ignatova referred to all the members of the OneCoin “club”. A system that has “similarities with millennium cults”The BBC has reassured Eileen Parker, a specialist in sectarian movements at the London School of Economics. “People think they are part of a big project and invest in something that will change the world, in the end, it is almost impossible for them to admit they are wrong,” he explains.

As in most denominations, While the members at the “bottom” of the pyramid are paid, the leaders at the “top” get rich. In 2018, French journalist Maxime Grimbert spent months tracing the financial path to uncover hundreds of shell companies that allowed Roja Ignatova and her relatives to buy luxury properties across Europe.

But when financial authorities in various countries, including Germany, Bulgaria and the UK, issued warnings about the “OneCoin” business model, investors/victims started asking for answers. In particular, they wanted to know why “OneCoin” could not be converted into dollars or euros.

Ruja Ignatova confirmed that the value of her cryptocurrency has increased significantly thanks to the investments made … In fact, it was the leaders of the project who determined the value of “OneCoin” as they liked.

Blindness in Greece

During a major conference planned in Lisbon in October 2017, the scammer was expected to deliver some good financial news to its investors, who were increasingly impatient for their money. She never appeared on stage and from that moment on, nothing was heard from her again.

The FBI discovered that two weeks before the conference was announced in Portugal, he had taken a trip to Athens, where he had apparently disappeared. She would discover, by chance, that her then-fiancé, whom she spied because she suspected he was cheating on him, was cooperating with the FBI.The Wall Street Journal says.

A discovery that would have propelled her to her feet as quickly as possible. since then, Rumors and conspiracies abound: she would have been killed by disaffected investors, would remain in hiding in Greece or even in Dubai, or would return to Germany, where she grew up, or would be protected in Bulgaria by mafia groups that helped enrich it.

His whereabouts are uncertain: the truth is that the “OneCoin” house of cards has fallen. After the disappearance of the “queen of cryptocurrency,” her brother, Konstantin Ignatov, took over the business before handing it over to his mother, who later passed it on to other businesswomen. In the end they all disappeared.

Not surprisingly, this story is of interest to Hollywood. Film studio MGM announced in 2020 the release of a movie about OneCoin called Fake! . Kate Winslet will play Ruja Ignatova, an actress who made her debut in feature films such as Titanic or Contagion.

* Adapted from the original version in French

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