Dr Ruja Ignatova, founder of OneCoin, has been placed on Europol’s most-wanted list for her role in a multibillion pound cryptocurrency scam.
The scam is considered one of the biggest frauds in history, and is predicted to have hustled as much as £12.7 billion from investors. It was also the subject of the BBC’s ‘The Missing Cryptoqueen’ podcast in 2019.
When it first came out, OneCoin was marketed as an alternative to Bitcoin but was in fact a Ponzi-style scam that conned people from 175 countries out of at least £4 billion.
Now, the EU’s law enforcement agency is offering a reward of just under £4,300 (€5,000) for information leading to the Bulgarian native’s arrest after five years on the run.
It said Ignatova was ‘the driving force and intellectual inventor’ of OneCoin and ‘is suspected of having prompted investors worldwide to invest in this worthless currency’.
The 41-year-old created OneCoin in 2014 in Sofia, Bulgaria, and claimed it had more than three million members worldwide.
It generated a whopping £2.9 billion (€3.4 billion) in revenue from the fourth quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2016.
Prosecutors told a US court in 2019 that Ignatova headed the organisation until she vanished from the public eye in October 2017, and her brother, Konstantin, took over her leadership position in the middle of 2018.
Interestingly, most of her key alleged collaborators have either been arrested or jailed, most notably her brother Konstantin, as well as OneCoin’s co-founder Karl Sebastian Greenwood, her corporate lawyer Mark Scott, and her partner Gilbert Armenta.
Journalist Jamie Bartlett, who is the host of BBC podcast ‘The Missing Cryptoqueen’, said Europol’s reward will do little to entice someone when Ignatova has so much worth at her fingertips.
He told VICE World News: “They won’t find her by offering that sort of money. The people who will have information about her whereabouts will not be tempted to risk being harmed or killed for €5,000 and I really don’t think it’s enough to tempt those who might be protecting her either.”
Bartlett added that he believes Ignatova is ‘travelling on a fake passport under a fake name with a different face’ and said that her arrest at an airport would be ‘extremely unlikely’ even with Europol’s fresh appeal.
Despite the scam being publicly unmasked nearly three years ago, Barlett revealed that the company originally behind the OneCoin is still holding events to attract investors in Latin America as well as parts of Asia and in Romania.