by Lubomir Tassev
Ruja Ignatova, mastermind of the notorious pyramid Onecoin, is now one of Europe’s most wanted fugitives. Also known as the “Crypto Queen,” she disappeared almost five years ago, after the Ponzi scheme she led collected billions of dollars from defrauded investors around the world.
The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, Europol, is now offering a reward of up to €5,000 ($5,200) for any information that could lead to the arrest of Ruja Ignatova, suspected of masterminding one of the largest scams in crypto history, Onecoin.
The announcement describes Ignatova, a doctor of law, as the “driving force and intellectual inventor of the alleged cryptocurrency Onecoin.” She is suspected of inducing investors all over the world to put money into “this actually worthless ‘currency’,” Europol notes.
The agency also points out that the fraud-related losses to the Ponzi scheme that have been established so far are in the upper double-digit million range, while also acknowledging that the total damage caused on a global scale is likely to amount to several billion U.S. dollars. Europol explains:
The wanted person’s whereabouts have been unknown since 25 October 2017, and she has not appeared in public since this date, neither in connection with OneCoin nor otherwise.
Ignatova has been accused of “fraud, including that affecting the financial interests of the European Communities within the meaning of the Convention of 26 July 1995.” The promised reward is intended only for private individuals that provide crucial information about her location and not for officials prosecuting criminal offenses.
The Crypto Queen has been added to Europe’s Most Wanted list on the initiative of the German law enforcement authorities. According to an announcement published by the police in the western German province of North Rhine-Westphalia, the €5,000 reward has been offered by the public prosecutor’s office in Bielefeld.
Onecoin was launched by Bulgarian-born German national Ruja Ignatova in 2014. The project’s cryptocurrency was advertised as the “Bitcoin killer” and promoted through Bulgaria-based offshore entities Onecoin Ltd., registered in Dubai, and the Belize-incorporated Onelife Network Ltd. Both were founded by Ignatova and her partner Sebastian Greenwood, who is now jailed in the U.S.
Ruja’s brother, Konstantin Ignatov, who is also a co-founder of Onecoin, was arrested in Los Angeles in 2019 and charged with committing financial crimes. He has since started cooperating with investigators working on the case, testified about Onecoin’s links to organized crime, pleaded guilty, and sought witness protection.
In November, a lawyer representing investors urged Bulgaria to act on the case, claiming the scam was still operating from the country. In a petition with the Bulgarian ombudsman, Jonathan Levy accused officials of failing to provide justice to the victims. He also alleged that the Ignatovs and Onecoin entities were still in control of property, crypto assets, and fiat funds exceeding €12.5 billion (over $13 billion).
Do you think European law enforcement authorities will manage to locate Onecoin’s founder Ruja Ignatova? Tell us in the comments section below.
Lubomir Tassev is a journalist from tech-savvy Eastern Europe who likes Hitchens’s quote: “Being a writer is what I am, rather than what I do.” Besides crypto, blockchain and fintech, international politics and economics are two other sources of inspiration.
Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons
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