The FBI has added Ruja Ignatova to its 10 most wanted fugatives list.
The co-creator of OneCoin has been missing for over four years after boarding a flight from Sofia in Bulgaria.
A $100,000 reward has been offered by the FBI to anyone who can provide information leading to her arrest.
It is alleged that she was the leader of a fraud scheme that affected millions of investors worldwide.
Who is Ruja Ingnatova?
Born in Bulgaria in 1980, Ignatova grew up in Germany after her family emigrated when she was 10 years old.
She came to prominence as the co-founder of OneCoin in 2014. It was promoted as a cryptocurrency and attracted investors from around the globe.
She has a PhD in private international law from the University of Constance and it has been reported that she worked for investment firm McKinsey & Company for a time.
But prior to the launch of OneCoin, Ignatova was convicted of fraud in Germany in 2012 after aquiring a company which shortly after declared bankrupcy in “dubious” circumstances.
It is also alleged that she was involved in a multi-level marketing scam called BigCoin in 2013, one year before the launch of OneCoin.
Why did the FBI add her to the most wanted list?
The FBI added Ignatova to its most wanted fugitives list on June 30, 2022. In a post on Twitter the bureau said: “Ruja Ignatova is the newest addition to the #FBI‘s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List.
“She’s #wanted for allegedly leading a fraud scheme that affected millions of investors worldwide.
“We’re offering a reward of up to $100,000 for info leading to her arrest.”
You can report any tips on the FBI’s website.
Europol also added Ignatova to its most wanted list in May 2022.
Was OneCoin a scam?
Ignatova promised that OneCoin would be a “financial revolution” after its launch in 2014.
It was promoted with flashy launches and events, including at Wembley Arena in London.
But despite being promoted as a cryptocurrency, OneCoin was not decentralised and did not even have a blockchain behind it. In simple terms, blockchains are essentially a “digital ledger” which track crytocurrency transactions. OneCoin was not traded on traditional cryptocurrency exchanges - instead it was hosted on OneCoin Ltd’s servers.
To get OneCoin you had to buy educational packages, which an investigation found had all been plagiarised, and these would cost between 100 euros and 118,000 euros. Each package would come with “tokens” that would allow you to “mine” OneCoins. People were incentivised to recruit their friends and family into also buying these packages.
Because of this, OneCoin has been described as a ponzi scheme.
What happened to OneCoin?
The OneCoin exchange shut down without notice in January 2017.
Because the cryptocurrency was centralised, this exchange was the only way for people to cash out.
In the run up to its sudden closure at the start of 2017, OneCoin denied the majority of withdrawl requests, and due to the closure of the exchange, investors lost their money.
Coin Telegraph reports that Jen McAdam, an investor in OneCoin, and her family and friends lost $250,000 between them.
In total it is estimated that between 2014 and 2016, $4 billion was invested in OneCoin.
When did she disappear and have there been any sightings?
Ignatova was last seen boarding a Ryanair flight in her native Sofia in Bulgaria on 25 October, 2017.
She has been officially missing her since.
Jamie Bartlett, host of The Missing Cryptoqueen podcast, has recieved many reports of sightings of Ignatova - even a “very credible” one at Heathrow Airport.
However Ignatova has yet to be traced.
Has Ruja Ignatova been charged with any crimes?
In the U.S. she was charged with eight counts including wire fraud and securities fraud in 2019.
Ignatova’s brother Konstantin Ignatov, who took over the running of OneCoin after her disappearance, was arrested in 2019 at Los Angeles International Airport.
He pleaded guilty to several charges in the States , including money laundering and fraud, stemming from his involvement in what federal prosecustors described as an “international pyramid scheme”.
Konstantin is awaiting sentencing.
How can you listen to ‘The Missing Cryptoqueen’ podcast?
The BBC’s Jamie Bartlett has been covering Ignatova and OneCoin in the popular podcast ‘The Missing Cryptoqueen’ since 2019.
It is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and BBC Sounds.
The podcast currently has nine episodes.
Who else is on the FBI’s most wanted list?
Ignatova is the only woman currently on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list. The others on the list are:
He is wanted for allegedly murdering his new bride less than 24 hours after marrying her.
Wanted for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder of a five-year-old girl in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The girl was reported missing in late July of 2000, and was later found strangled to death in a nearby apartment in early August of 2000.
Jose Rodolfo Villarreal-Hernandez
Also known as “El Gato”, he is wanted for his alleged involvement in the interstate stalking and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire of a 43-year-old male victim on 22 May, 2013, in Southlake, Texas. Villarreal-Hernandez allegedly holds an active leadership position in the Beltran Leyva drug-trafficking organization within the region of San Pedro Garza Garcia, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
Yulan Adonay Archaga Carias
He is charged federally in the Southern District of New York with racketeering conspiracy, cocaine importation conspiracy, and possession and conspiracy to possess machine guns. As the alleged leader of MS-13 for all of Honduras, Archaga Carias allegedly controlled MS-13 criminal activity in Honduras and provided support and resources to the MS-13 enterprise in Central America and the United States with firearms, narcotics, and cash.
Archaga Carias is also allegedly responsible for supporting multi-ton loads of cocaine through Honduras to the United States and for ordering and participating in murders of rival gang members and others associated with MS-13.
He is considered a godfather of Mexican drug trafficking and wanted for the 1985 murder of a U.S. federal agent.
Palmer is wanted for allegedly killing his daughter-in-law outside her home in Stony Point, New York.
Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel
The 26-year-old is wanted for the April 2015 murder of his wife in Maryland.
Alejandro Rosales Castillo
He is charged with murdering his former girlfriend in 2016 in North Carolina.
Jason Derek Brown
He is wanted for murder and armed robbery in Phoenix, Arizona. During November of 2004, Brown allegedly shot and killed an armoured car guard outside a cinema and then fled with the money.