Ruja Plamenova Ignatova (Bulgarian: Ружа Пламенова Игнатова, romanizedRuža Plamenova Ignatova, occasionally transliterated as "Ruga Ignatova"; born 30 May 1980)[2] is a Bulgarian-born German entrepreneur who in 2019 was convicted of fraud. She is best known as the founder of a fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme known as OneCoin, which The Times has described as "one of the biggest scams in history".[3][4][5] She is the subject of the 2019 BBC podcast series The Missing Cryptoqueen and the 2022 book of the same name.[6][7]

Ruja Ignatova
FBI picture
FBI picture
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
BornRuzha Plamenova Ignatova
(1980-05-30) 30 May 1980 (age 43)
Ruse, Bulgaria
  • Bulgarian (formerly)[1]
  • German
PenaltyUp to 90 years for the Ponzi scheme. 16 months' suspended imprisonment for a previous case.
Added30 June 2022
Currently a Top Ten Fugitive

Since 2017, Ignatova has been on the run from various international law enforcement agencies. In early 2019, she was charged in absentia by U.S. authorities for wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering. She was added to the FBI Ten Most Wanted in June 2022.[3][8] Ignatova is the subject of an international Interpol warrant by German authorities.[9] Ignatova owns a number of properties in Dubai.[10]

Early life and education edit

Ignatova was born in Ruse, Bulgaria in 1980[11] to a Romani family.[12] Ignatova emigrated to Germany with her family when she was ten years old, and spent part of her childhood in Schramberg in the state of Baden-Württemberg.[3][13] Claims that she may have studied at University of Oxford in England give no details of college, course, or date of matriculation.[14] In 2005, she earned a PhD in private international law from the University of Konstanz in Germany with the dissertation Art. 5 Nr. 1 EuGVO – Chancen und Perspektiven der Reform des Gerichtsstands am Erfüllungsort, which discusses lex causae in conflict of laws.[15] She reportedly has also worked for McKinsey & Company.[16]

Criminal activities edit

In 2012, she was convicted of fraud in Germany in connection with her father Plamen Ignatov's acquisition of a company that shortly afterwards was declared bankrupt in dubious circumstances; she was given a suspended sentence of 14 months' imprisonment.[17][18] In 2013, she was involved with a multi-level marketing scam called BigCoin.[19] In 2014, she founded a pyramid scheme called OneCoin.[20]

Investigation and disappearance edit

An episode of the FBI's series "Inside the FBI" about Ruja Ignatova and how she allegedly robbed investors of billions of dollars.

On 25 October 2017, Ignatova disappeared after being tipped off about increasing police investigations about OneCoin.[21] In 2019, her brother Konstantin Ignatov pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering in connection with the scheme.[22]

In 2022, prosecutors in Darmstadt, Germany confirmed an investigation of "a lawyer from Neu-Isenburg" for possible money laundering: the transfer of 7.69 million euros by Ignatova into one of her private accounts in 2016. In January 2022, police searched apartments and offices in Weilburg, Baden-Baden, Frankfurt am Main, Bad Homburg, Neu-Isenburg and Vaihingen.[23]

Afterwards, the North Rhine-Westphalia Police and German Federal Criminal Police Office announced that Ignatova is sought for fraud charges. The Federal Criminal Police Office announced a €5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.[24][25] An Interpol Red Notice followed.[26] This listing was reciprocated by Europol adding Ignatova to its 'most wanted' list; however, Deutsche Welle notes that the Europol listing was removed under unknown circumstances.[27]

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation added Ignatova to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, and announced at a joint press conference with IRS Criminal Investigation and United States Attorney's Office Southern District of New York. The FBI followed up with an episode of its podcast and YouTube series Inside the FBI devoted to Ignatova and the OneCoin case.[28] There is currently a reward of up to $250,000 for information leading to her arrest.[29][30]

According to a report published by Bulgarian investigative reporting site Bird, Ignatova was murdered in November 2018 on the orders of a Bulgarian drug lord, Hristoforos Amanatidis, also known as "Taki". The alleged murderer, Hristo Hristov, who is also Bulgarian, is currently serving a sentence in a Dutch prison for drug trafficking. According to the report, Ignatova was murdered aboard a yacht in the Ionian Sea, and her body was dismembered and thrown overboard. The alleged motive for the murder was to conceal the drug lord's involvement in the OneCoin scam. The narco-boss is said currently to reside in Dubai, having evaded Bulgarian authorities.[31][32]

However, a 2022 interview with FBI Special Agent Paul Roberts notes that the agency's investigation into Ignatova is "operating under the assumption that she is still alive", with “no information” to counter that belief.[33] Ignatova was the subject of a book, The Missing Cryptoqueen, in 2022.[7]

Personal life edit

Ignatova was married to the German lawyer Björn Strehl, with whom she had a daughter in 2016.[3]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Продължава издирването на 41-годишна германска гражданка, родена у нас" [Search continues for 41-year-old German national born in Bulgaria]. MOI Press Office. Archived from the original on April 19, 2022. Retrieved April 23, 2022.
  2. ^ Kristen Young (October 6, 2019). "OneCoin defendant seeks to suppress statements made to federal agents". Cape Cod Times. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d "Cryptoqueen: How this woman scammed the world, then ran". BBC. November 24, 2019.
  4. ^ Cellan-Jones, Rory (September 26, 2019). "The mystery of the disappearing 'Cryptoqueen'". BBC.
  5. ^ Bartlett, Jamie (December 15, 2019). "The £4bn OneCoin scam: how crypto-queen Dr Ruja Ignatova duped ordinary people out of billions — then went missing". The Times.
  6. ^ Morris, David Z (November 6, 2019). "Is OneCoin The Biggest Financial Fraud in History?". Fortune. Archived from the original on May 2, 2022. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  7. ^ a b Bartlett, Jamie (June 7, 2022). The Missing Cryptoqueen: The Billion Dollar Cryptocurrency Con and the Woman Who Got Away with It. New York: Hachette Books. ISBN 978-0-306-82916-1.
  8. ^ "Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Leaders Of "OneCoin," A Multibillion-Dollar Pyramid Scheme Involving The Sale Of A Fraudulent Cryptocurrency". U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York. March 9, 2019.
  9. ^ "View Red Notices". Retrieved August 9, 2023.
  10. ^ "Leaked Dubai property files link luxury flats to OneCoin crypto scammers". ICIJ. May 15, 2024.
  11. ^ "BKA - Fahndung nach Personen - Ruja IGNATOVA". Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  12. ^ "Ruja Ignatova: The crooked cryptoqueen".
  13. ^ "The Outrageous Case of OneCoin, the Billion Dollar Scam Sold as a "Bitcoin Killer"".
  14. ^ "Cryptoqueen: How this woman scammed the world, then vanished". BBC News. BBC. November 24, 2019. Retrieved July 13, 2022.
  15. ^ "Abgeschlossene Promotionen".
  16. ^ Marson, James (August 27, 2020). "OneCoin Took In Billions. Then Its Leader Vanished". The Wall Street Journal.
  17. ^ Stier, Frank. "Das Verstummen der Cryptoqueen". heise online.
  18. ^ "So etwas Dubioses nie erlebt". Kreisbote. January 20, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  19. ^ "BigCoin & BNA: The original OneCoin Ponzi points".
  20. ^ "Co-founder of multibillion-dollar cryptocurrency pyramid scheme "OneCoin" pleads guilty | Internal Revenue Service". Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  21. ^ "Ruja Ignatova: Leaked police notes may have alerted FBI-wanted Cryptoqueen". BBC News. October 19, 2022. Retrieved December 29, 2022.
  22. ^ "'Cryptoqueen' brother admits role in OneCoin fraud". BBC News. November 14, 2019.
  23. ^ Rosenbach, Marcel (May 27, 2022). "Krypto-Betrug mit OneCoin: Weiteres Verfahren und Durchsuchungen". Der Spiegel (in German). ISSN 2195-1349. Retrieved July 1, 2022.
  24. ^ "International - Betrug in Millionenhöhe". (in German). Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  25. ^ "BKA - Fahndung nach Personen - Ruja IGNATOVA". Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  26. ^ INTERPOL [@INTERPOL_HQ] (May 11, 2022). "RED NOTICE: Ruja Ignatova, dubbed 'the Cryptoqueen', is #wanted by Germany @bka for fraud and money laundering. A reward is offered for information leading to the arrest of the co-founder of the alleged cryptocurrency 'OneCoin' in hiding since 2017." (Tweet). Archived from the original on February 9, 2023. Retrieved March 28, 2023 – via Twitter.
  27. ^ Mazumdaru, Srinivas (July 5, 2022). "Ruja Ignatova: What we know about the OneCoin affair – DW – 07/05/2022". Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  28. ^ Inside the FBI Podcast: Top Ten Fugitive Ruja Ignatova. FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation. August 31, 2022. Archived from the original on February 9, 2023. Retrieved March 28, 2023 – via YouTube.
  29. ^ Daly, Max (May 12, 2022). "OneCoin's Missing 'Crypto Queen' Is Now One of Europe's Most-Wanted Fugitives". VICE.
  30. ^ "RUJA IGNATOVA". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved May 26, 2023.
  31. ^ "Справка в МВР: Ружа Игнатова била убита по поръчка на Таки. Шефът на отдел "Убийства" работел за него". February 17, 2023.
  32. ^ Vess [@VessOnSecurity] (February 19, 2023). "Apparently, the Bulgarian "crypto queen", Ruja Ilieva, famous for the OneCoin scam, who has disappeared and is on the FBI most wanted list, was killed in November 2018 by order of a Bulgarian narco boss" (Tweet). Archived from the original on March 15, 2023. Retrieved March 28, 2023 – via Twitter.
  33. ^ Jamie Bartlett (October 19, 2022). "Episode 11: Operation Satellite - The Missing Cryptoqueen". BBC Radio 5 Live (Podcast). BBC Documentaries. Retrieved March 25, 2023.

External links edit