The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

'Crypto Queen': how Ruja Ignatova deceived thousands of people worth billions of dollars and disappeared


Source: Air force

Ruja Ignatova called herself a “crypto-royal”. She claimed to have invented a cryptocurrency that could compete with bitcoin and attracted billions in investment. She disappeared two years ago. Journalist Jamie Bartlett spent several months trying to figure out how she did it all, and where she might be hiding now. He stated his thoughts in an exclusive article Air force. Next - from the first person.

Photo: video frame YouTube / OneCoin

In early July 2016, Ruja Ignatova, a 36-year-old entrepreneur, took to the stage at Wembley Stadium to the cheers of an enthusiastic crowd. She was, as always, dressed in an expensive evening dress. She wore massive diamond earrings and bright red lipstick.

Her OneCoin project will soon become the most successful cryptocurrency in the world, she said, and "everyone will pay her everywhere."

Bitcoin was the very first cryptocurrency and still remains the most famous and successful. The jump in its value from a few cents to several hundred dollars in the 2016 year caused a wild stir among investors. Cryptocurrency was just becoming mass, and many were interested in a new opportunity to get rich.

“OneCoin is a bitcoin killer,” said Ruja Ignatova. “In two years, everyone will forget about Bitcoin,” she said from the stage at Wembley Stadium.

All over the world, people were ready to invest their savings in the “crypto queen” and OneCoin to become part of this new revolution. The BBC managed to obtain documents from which it follows that the British invested about 2016 million euros in OneCoin in the first half of 30, while the project attracted two million of this amount in a week. After Ignatova's speech at Wembley, there must have been more investors.

Between August 2014 and March 2017, OneCoin raised four billion euros from dozens of countries - Pakistan, Brazil, Norway, Hong Kong, Canada and Yemen. Investors were found even in the Palestinian territories.

But all these people did not know the most important.

To better explain this, I need to briefly explain how cryptocurrency works. The principle of its work, as everyone knows, is complex. You can find hundreds of different descriptions on the Internet, and almost all of them will baffle the average person. But here's the basic principle: money has a value only when it is considered valuable by others. Whether we're talking about Bank of England notes, shells, gems or matches (all of which were used as currency) - money only works when everyone trusts it.

People have long been trying to create a digital currency that is not tied to the rate of money that governments issue. This did not work, because no one trusted such initiatives. Each time there was a need for a structure that could manipulate the amount of currency in the market and its exchange rate. In addition, digital currencies were too easy to fake.

Bitcoin is attractive because it solves these problems. It is based on a special type of database, blockchain, which resembles a big book. Each bitcoin owner has an independent, but identical copy of this book. Every time bitcoins change hands, a transaction record appears in all copies of the ledger. No one - not banks, not governments, not even the inventor of Bitcoin - controls the system and cannot change these records. The system is built on nifty mathematical calculations that make Bitcoin impossible to counterfeit, hack, or spend twice.

I experienced this explanation for the main technophobe of our family - my mother, and she said that I couldn't explain anything, so don't worry if you also found it difficult to understand.

The point is that databases on the blockchain are what makes Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies work. For Bitcoin fans, it is a revolutionary new currency that could replace the money of banks and governments and make banking available to anyone with a smartphone. And if you enter the currency earlier than others, then there is a chance to get rich.

The genius of Rouge was that she knew how to sell all these ideas to the general public.

But something was wrong. In early October 2016, four months after performing at Wembley Stadium, a blockchain expert named Bjorn Bjerke received a call from a recruiting agency with a job offer. A Bulgarian cryptocurrency startup was looking for a technical director. Bjerke was offered housing, a car and a solid salary - 250 thousand pounds (332,6 thousand dollars) per year.

“I thought: what is this job? What should I do for this company? ”He recalls.

“The agent said,“ Well, first of all they need a blockchain. They don't have a blockchain platform right now. ”

“I say,“ What? You said it was a cryptocurrency company. ”

The agent confirmed. It was a cryptocurrency company - already with a history, but they did not have a blockchain.

“We want you to create a base for them on the blockchain,” he said.

"What is the name of the company?"


Bjorn refused to work.

"Tycoon's Kit" by Jen McAdam

A few months later, on a spring afternoon, Jen McAdam received a letter from a friend stating the possibility of a very profitable investment. Glasgow resident clicked on the link and got to the seminar for potential investors in OneCoin. For an hour or a little more, she carefully listened to the presenters, enthusiastically talking about the new cryptocurrency and how she would change the fate of Jen. They were all very energetic and vibrant, recalls Jen.

“You are very lucky that you are now watching this seminar,” she was told. “You managed to enter the currency before the others, and OneCoin will become the second bitcoin, there will be more bitcoin”.

At the webinar, they talked about Ruzha Ignatova's impressive career: University of Oxford, doctoral degree from the University of Constance, work at the respected consulting agency McKinsey ... Jen showed a fragment of the doctor's speech at a conference organized by Economist magazine. After that, she decided: “It bribed me ... A strong woman. Well done! I was proud of her. "

By the end of the workshop, Jen decided to invest a thousand pounds ($ 1290) in OnceCoin. It was easy to do - you need to buy OnceCoin tokens, which generated the actual currency that was accumulated in the depositor's account. Someday, very soon, she will be able to exchange this currency for euros or pounds.

Easy Money. Might be worth investing more? At the seminar, they said that you can truly change your life only by making a major contribution. The minimum contribution was 140 pounds (180 dollars), the maximum was 118 thousand (152 thousand dollars). A week later, Jen McAdam bought a “tycoon package” for £ 6500 (almost $ XNUMX).

Soon, her contribution increased to ten thousand (12,9 thousand dollars), she persuaded another 250 thousand (322600 dollars) to invest friends and relatives. She enthusiastically watched the counter on the OneCoin website, which showed how the value of her digital coins was growing. Quite quickly, the cost rose to 100 thousand pounds (129 thousand dollars). Jen made 900% profit. She began to plan trips to resorts and shopping.

But toward the end of the year, Jen wrote on the Internet by a stranger claiming to be a "good Samaritan." He said that he had carefully studied OneCoin and now wants to talk to the people who have invested in this currency. She reluctantly agreed to a Skype conversation. The conversation quickly turned into a skirmish, but Jen McAdam's life after her flowed in a different direction.

The stranger was Timothy Curry, a cryptocurrency activist and bitcoin promoter. He believed that the OneCoin project was damaging the reputation of the cryptocurrency in general. Curry bluntly told McAdam that OneCoin is a scam - "the greatest scam in the whole fucking world." He said he could prove it. "So prove it!" - Jen answered sharply.

For several weeks, Curry threw Jen over links to articles and videos about how cryptocurrency works. He introduced her to Bjorn Bierke, a blockchain developer, who told her that OneCoin did not have a blockchain base.

It took McAdam three months to figure it out. She began to have questions. She started asking instructors at OnceCoin. At first she was told that the presence of a blockchain base in the project should not bother her. But she insisted, and in April 2017 she was finally answered in essence - in a voice message.

“Okay Jen… The instructors didn't want to divulge that kind of information in case something went wrong with the blockchain. In an applied sense, a blockchain server is not needed at all. Therefore, this is our blockchain technology. SQL Server with Database ”.

Thanks to Curry and Bierke, Jen already knew that a standard database with support for the SQL programming language could not serve as the main one for a real cryptocurrency. The custodian of such a base can change it as he wants.

"I thought that?!" Then my legs gave way and I just fell to the floor, ”says Jen.

Soon, she came to the obvious conclusion: the numbers on the OneCoin website did not make sense. They were simply driven into the computer by an employee of the company. Jen and her loved ones did not become fabulously rich, but simply threw a quarter of a million euros into the wind.

On the subject: Deceived 30 people: Russian woman borrowed $ 4,8 million from friends and fled to Israel

Rouge disappears

Jen McAdam regained her sight, but she was one of many. Rouge still traveled around the world selling her vision for the future of cryptocurrencies, from Macau to Dubai to Singapore. She filled stadiums and attracted investors. OneCoin was still growing rapidly and Ruja started spending the money she earned - she spent several million on real estate in Sofia and the Black Sea resort of Sozopol. In her spare time, she threw parties on her luxury yacht Davina. American pop star Bebe Rexha performed at one of them.

But it was just a facade. Clouds were gathering over the company. The opening of a currency exchange on which OneCoin could be exchanged for cash was constantly delayed. Investors began to worry.

In October 2017, a large meeting of investors and currency promoters was to take place in Lisbon. Rouge, known for her punctuality, simply did not come to this meeting.

“She was about to come, no one understood why she was not there,” says one of the conference participants. Calls and messages went unanswered. The head office in Sofia did not know anything either. Ruja Ignatova disappeared. Someone was afraid that she was killed or kidnapped by agents of the banking system. They were told that bankers are very afraid of the cryptocurrency revolution.

In fact, Rouge was hiding. As follows from the documents of the FBI presented in court, on October 25 of 2017 of the year, just two weeks after the Lisbon conference, to which she never came, Rouge boarded a plane from Sofia to Athens. After that, her trace is lost. No one else saw her.

Photo: video frame YouTube / Dariga Tulepova

Network marketer

Igor Alberts is wearing black and gold. Black and gold boots, suit, shirts and sunglasses. Everything from Dolce & Gabbana. On the finger there is a gold ring with a black stone.

“Look at my clothes and you will see discipline,” he says. His wife Andrea Tsimbala nods and adds that if Igor gets up in the morning and puts on pink underwear, then the rest of the suit - shirt, pants and jacket - will also be in pink. They live in a huge mansion in a wealthy neighborhood on the outskirts of Amsterdam. The entrance to the territory of the mansion is blocked by a three-meter gate decorated with the names of the spouses and the motto: “Where Dreams May Come”. Maseratti and Aston Martin stand in front of the gate.

Alberts grew up in a poor neighborhood. Over time, he took up network marketing, or, as he is also called, multi-level marketing, and began to earn big money. Igor says that over the past 30 years he has earned about 300 million dollars.

Here's how network marketing works.

I pay £ 100 and start selling vitamins to people. My friends Georgia and Phil buy one box - I make a small profit. But then I hire Georgia and Phil to sell my vitamins too, and I get a small share of their sales. Georgia and Phil are now my distributors. Each of them hires two more people, each of the new two hires two more, and so on. The network is growing very quickly: 25 such levels, and all adults in Britain will start selling vitamins (and I, as the head of the chain, will receive a share from each sale).

Network marketing is legal. This technology is used by large companies such as Amway and Herbalife. But not everyone considers it ethical, because all the profits go to the small group of people at the top of the chain. Moreover, this type of marketing is known for unrealistic sales goals and promises of very high profits. However, if in such a scheme a valuable product is not sold, and all the project's proceeds come from people hired for trade, then it becomes illegal and is called differently - a financial pyramid.

In May 2015, the year of the successful network marketing merchant Igor Alberts was invited to Dubai at the OneCoin conference. He met a lot of people who, judging by their appearance, made money with this new currency of fortune.

Rouge also impressed him with her “princess dress” and vision of the global financial revolution. Igor returned with a new mission and immediately gave all his distributors a new task: to stop everything they do and start selling OneCoin.

“We put together teams and started working like crazy,” he says. “In the first month we made almost £ 90 ($ 116) out of nothing. Boom!"

Rouge showed her genius once again - she realized that network marketers with huge distribution networks would be the perfect platform to popularize her fake cryptocurrency. The FBI says she called this part of her plan "Wall Street bitch meets MLM." This was the secret of OneCoin's success. It was not just a fake cryptocurrency, but a good old pyramid scheme with fake currency as a “product”. No wonder she grew up so fast.

Pretty soon Igor Alberts started making more than a million euros a month on OneCoin. Currency has become the hottest product in network marketing. “Other companies never came close to that level,” he says.

60% of the profits received by Alberts and his wife from OneCoin (it eventually grew to about two million euros per month) were paid in cash, the rest - in cryptocurrency itself. But part of the cash went to buy more OneCoin. Like almost every other investor, they were convinced that they were making a fortune.

“I calculated how many coins we need to become the richest people on the planet,” says Igor. - I told Andrea: “We need to accumulate 100 million coins, because when each of them will rise in price to 100 euros, and we have 100 million, and we will become richer than Bill Gates”. This is simple arithmetic. ”

The nature of the network schemes in which people often involve their loved ones is such that it is unclear who is responsible. It’s hard to understand who is to blame. And if the seller himself invested money, then he, too, becomes a victim.

After Rouge did not appear at her own conference, Igor Alberts, like Jen McAdam before him, demanded that he be told about the blockchain base. Having learned nothing, he left the project in December 2017 of the year.

I ask Igor if he feels guilty for having sold so many people a non-existent cryptocurrency and made a profit.

“I don't feel guilty, but a sense of responsibility,” he says. - You can't blame a person for believing in something. I had no idea this might be a fake. I didn't even know what blockchain was ... How could I doubt? "

He notes that he himself has spent millions on OneCoin - perhaps more than his clients. Jen McAdam, on the other hand, says she feels guilty. I ask her how much she made from selling cryptocurrency. Three thousand pounds ($ 3870), she says, of which £ 1800 ($ 2320) was poured back into OneCoin.

Jen says that she feels guilty in front of those whom she told about OneCoin, and in front of the late father, a miner who worked all his life and left her the inheritance that she gave to the scammers.

On her YouTube channel, Rouge repeatedly acted as an interviewer. Photo: video frame YouTube / OneCoin

In the wake of money

It's hard to understand how much money people have invested in OneCoin. The documents studied by the BBC, called the figure in 4 billion euros between August 2014 and March 2017 of the year. A few knowledgeable people told me that the figure could go up to 15 billion.

There is a rule in journalism: “Follow the money”. I went to meet Oliver Bullough, an expert on the shadowy parallel world where criminals and the super-rich hide their belongings, along with the producer of The Gone Crypto Queen podcast Georgia Catt. The problem, Bullough explains, is that it turns out to be difficult to follow the money - criminals structure their legal entities and accounts so that their assets seem to disappear.

“They certainly do not disappear,” says the expert, sitting in his garden near the English village of Hay-on-Wye. “You can still buy with their help - political influence, beautiful houses, yachts. But if someone tries to find them - police or journalists - they are invisible. ”

Therefore, it is not surprising that the OneCoin corporate structure is incredibly complex. Here's an example: Rouge bought a big house in the center of Sofia. Formally, OneProperty, which was owned by another company called Risk Ltd., became its owner.

Risk Ltd. previously owned by Rouge, but then ceded ownership to unknown Panamanians. However, the company was managed by another company, Pergaon, owned by Artefix, which was owned by Ruzi's mother, Veska. Then, in 2017, Artefix was sold to an unknown man who was not 30 years old.

Oliver says such intricate schemes are standard for such a business.

French journalist Maxime Grimbert spent several months understanding corporate structures associated with OneCoin. He collected as many companies and accounts as he could. I show him Bullough's list, who immediately notices that there are many British companies on it. “The British are usually chosen,” he says. "They're very easy to create and look respectable."

Bullough selects the first company on the list and finds it on the Companies House register. Everything should be transparent - the site contains details of all UK companies; it is considered a key tool in the fight against corruption.

“We are very proud of that in this country,” says Bullough. “The problem is that when you create a company, no one checks the information you provide.”

He is looking for company reports that should be on the site, but they are empty. “The classic scheme,” says Oliver. - Look, nothing happened. They didn't publish any financial statements at all. ” He is trying to find information about the owners. Britain recently introduced a rule that every company must indicate its real owner - the person who actually controls it.

“This basically means you can't hide behind a British company,” he says, scrolling down the page. - Yes, they did not indicate who actually controls the company. This is illegal ... This is an anonymous shell company. You can buy them in the Seychelles, Saint Kitts and Nevis, the Marshall Islands or Vanuatu. ”

Follow the money does not come out. In an integrated global economic system, assets disappear, and the seeker simply chases after ghosts. When it comes to a multi-billion dollar scam, suspicious people often get involved. Some of those with whom we spoke with Georgia mentioned mysterious characters and relationships that we did not want to talk about.

“Considering how much money has been invested in OneCoin, of course there are people who are very unhappy and willing to do anything to shut up a person like me,” says Bjorn Bjerke, a blockchain expert who discovered that OneCoin does not have one and talked about to this people.

He says he started receiving threats after he spoke to the media. “If I knew what I would have to go through, I would never have started sounding the alarm. I would just turn around and leave, ”says Bjerke.

When I ask Bjerke who might have been behind the threats, he refuses to go on: "I can't discuss it - very, very quickly it gets very, very scary."

Bierke says that Rouge did not expect OnceCoin to grow that way. The people at the forefront told him that the project should not have grown into a multi-billion dollar scam. She tried to close the project, but unknown forces did not allow her to do this.

“After OneCoin came out for 10, 20, 30 million, something happened, after which she could no longer stop it,” says Bjerke.

“I think she was so scared in the fall of 2017 that she decided to run away.”

Network marketing guru Igor Alberts also speaks of “very influential people”. When I ask him for details, he replies: “I can't speak - I don't want to risk our lives.”

It is not clear who Bjorn and Igor are talking about. It is not even clear if they are talking about the same people, but the US Department of Justice is confident that they have found evidence of a connection between Ruzha's brother Konstantin Ignatov, who took over the company after his sister's disappearance, and "serious players in Eastern European organized crime."

On the subject: Left for the USA and disappeared: what happened to the daughter of Al Bano and Romina Power 25 years ago

Inside the "family"

6 March 2019 years Konstantin Ignatov was waiting at the Los Angeles airport for a flight to Bulgaria, having held several meetings on the OneCoin project in the United States. During the landing, FBI agents approached him. Ignatov was detained on suspicion of financial fraud in connection with the activities of the company. At about the same time, a court in the United States in absentia charged Rouge with electronic fraud, securities fraud and money laundering.

Surprisingly, even after that, OneCoin continued to work - and attracted investments. When Georgia and I arrived in Sofia a month later, Ruja's private mansion was in disrepair, and work was in full swing in the OneCoin office. Contributors often told us that they initially entered the project because they were afraid to miss the next chance to get rich. They read with envy about those who made a fortune on Bitcoin and thought OneCoin was a second chance.

Many were struck by Ruzha's charisma and persuasiveness. Investors may not have understood the technology, but they saw it speak to huge audiences or at the same Economist conference. They were shown photographs of her numerous diplomas and of Rouge herself on the cover of Forbes magazine. The diplomas were real, the cover was not. In fact, this is not a cover, but an advertising page inside the Bulgarian version of the magazine. Tearing off the real cover looks impressive.

But people seem to believe Rouge for more than just promises of wealth. After Jen McAdam invested in OneCoin, she was regularly told that she was now part of the OneCoin “family”. She was included in a group in the WhatsApp messenger, which had its own "leader" who conveyed messages to depositors from the headquarters in Sofia. Group leader Jen carefully prepared her for conversations with skeptics: “You are told not to believe anything that comes from the“ outside world, ”she recalls. “That's what they call everyone else. Haters. Bitcoin holders are haters, and even Google - “Don't listen to Google”.

Criticism was discouraged, as were uncomfortable questions. “If you have some kind of negativity, you shouldn't be in the group,” Jen recalls.

Professor Eileen Baker of the London School of Economics has studied Scientologists, Moonies and similar groups for many years. She says there are similarities between OneCoin contributors and millennial cults - both people believe they are part of something larger that could change the world. And no amount of evidence will force the signatories to admit that they could be wrong.

“When the prophecy is not fulfilled, they begin to believe even more,” says Baker. - It works especially well for those who have invested something in the project: not only money, but faith, reputation, information. Such a person thinks, "We have to wait a little longer."

People are attracted to money, but they stayed in the project because of a sense of belonging, a big deal, a big achievement, says Barker: “And in that sense, OneCoin was really like a cult.”

In an ideal world, regulators would try to protect consumers from scams such as OneCoin. But national governments react to such things very slowly, partly because the cryptocurrency industry is new and unusual for them.

The British Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published the warning on its website only in September 2016. “We believe that customers should be careful when dealing with OneCoin,” it said. “We are concerned about the potential risk it poses to UK depositors.”

Less than a year later, the warning was removed from the site. FCA said it had been a while, but the OneCoin evangelists convinced investors that the British authorities now considered their company reliable.

“Here is a first-hand answer, now everything is official,” says a promoter from Canada in a video on the Internet. “If they still thought we were scammers, they wouldn't have removed the warning. Game over".

After the FCA removed the warning from its site, several events organized by OneCoin took place in Britain. Depositors continued to carry money.

In August of this year, a two-year investigation by the London police against the company was completed. “The companies and individuals that control OneCoin are outside UK jurisdiction. We did not find any British assets with the help of which it would be possible to compensate for the losses of British investors, ”the investigators summed up.

From these explanations, the people affected by the scam did not feel better.

“I am very worried about all the defrauded Britons,” Jan McAdam tells me after hearing the news from the investigation. Today, she runs a WhatsApp group for OneCoin investors who realized they were cheated.

“Where is the support? Where is the help? It will be promoted further. This is a green light - OneCoin scammers can continue to extort money from innocent people in Britain, and no one will do anything. Everyone just doesn't care! ”

Scotland Yard provided the following comment: “There was not enough evidence to initiate a criminal case against British citizens, although the investigation did not claim that there were no complaints against OneCoin. The police are providing and will continue to assist foreign partners in investigating cases against OneCoin employees. If you believe you have been a victim of a OneCoin scam or suspect someone is actively promoting OneCoin in the market, please report to the Online Fraud Department. ”

The OneCoin office continued to run until November. And cryptocurrency was still advertised.

Tragedy in Uganda

Most residents of the Ugandan region of Ntangamo near the border with Rwanda earn a living by growing bananas. Some grow cassava, sweet potato, beans or ground almonds. In 2016, the 22-year-old Daniel Lynhardt came here, collecting 700 thousand Ugandan shillings (250 dollars) for the basic package of OneCoin investor. Lynhardt already had 400 thousand. To earn the missing amount, he came from the capital of Kampala to his village. He took the three goats that his younger brother raised, and sold them.

“There was no other way,” he says regretfully.

Daniel is one of thousands of Ugandans who bought Ruja's cryptocurrency. As the financial documents examined by the BBC show, as time went on, the company began to increasingly need depositors like him.

In Europe, the amount of deposits in OneCoin in the first half of the 2017 year fell significantly compared to 2016. But in Africa, the Middle East and India, it was the other way around. When investments from Europe began to fall, promoters increasingly worked with countries such as Uganda.

Daniel introduced me and Georgia to Prudence, who first told him about the "revolutionary cryptocurrency." They are still friends, although now both understand that it was a scam. Prudence is a nurse in a poor area of ​​Kampala. She wanted to make money by selling OneCoin and attracting new investors. The senior promoter gave her a nice car to impress potential buyers and told her to drive to the farms during harvest when the farmers had cash.

The village trusts visitors from the city, Prudence tells us. To buy an investor's stake, some sold livestock, others - land, and others - houses. With disastrous consequences.

“Some of them have children who cannot go to school, others have nowhere to sleep. Still others are on the run because they borrowed from the bank. Someone is hiding. Someone got divorced. "

If someone asks Prudence when their contributions will return, she says that they should wait. She has no power to tell the truth.

“I myself also hide a little. I don’t want depositors to see me move around the city. They can easily kill me if they think I ate their money. ”

Prudence stopped hiring new distributors, but not everyone did, and there are plenty of people interested in investing in OneCoin, she says.

One of the main OneCoin offices in Kampala is located in the annex to the church. There are videos on the Internet in which a priest nicknamed Bishop Fred shouts slogans during a sermon, and parishioners respond to him.

"One life (one life)!" He shouts. "One coin (one currency)!" - answer the parishioners. Bishop, we have learned, is one of the nation's most successful OneCoin promoters, although he himself says he no longer does marketing during sermons.

As in other countries, OneCoin has spread in Uganda through networks of friends and family. Georgia and I are going to meet Daniel's mother, he is also coming with us. The woman lives in a concrete house with a tin roof - five small rooms, a small TV and a kitchen. The entrance to the house is covered with a towel. There is a plot at a distance of several meters from the house. Here Daniel's mother grows food, and sells everything that is superfluous in the market. The family managed to save about £ XNUMX for a corn storage facility. With him, Daniel's mother would not need to spend every day in the field. However, when Daniel told the family about OneCoin, the cryptocurrency seemed a more attractive option.

The mother doubted, but her son persuaded her to invest not in a warehouse, but in OneCoin. She could not independently study the question - she has neither a computer nor a telephone. She doesn't speak English either, and as the conversation progresses, I understand that Daniel never told his mother that the money was wasted.

“I never told her outright that it wouldn’t work, that there was no more money and no hope,” Daniel tells me. - I tell her that the situation is changing. What are they putting off, that I do not know what is in their heads. Maybe it's just a delay. I didn’t make it clear to her that it didn’t work. ”

I ask him why. "It's difficult. It's hard for me to tell her. ”

Daniel's mother says she thought that our appearance with Georgia might be a good sign. Maybe it means that her money will finally be returned? She asks us if there is any news about OneCoin? Will she get her contribution back?

I look at her son.

“Maybe you could tell her ... Maybe,” he says.

He is not sure what it is worth doing. Perhaps this will put him in an uncomfortable position. I do not want to be the first to talk about everything to his mother. Georgia offers to say that we are journalists investigating OneCoin, because money has not been returned to many investors. Daniel translates, and then translates to us, the mother’s answer.

“If money is taken away from you, life becomes difficult,” she says. - You plan, you plan, and then your plans do not come true. Difficult life".

Where is Rouge?

When we first started planning the Lost Crypto Queen podcast in late 2018, no one knew what happened to Rouge after she disappeared. In 2019 alone, US authorities announced that she flew to Athens on October 25, 2017. And even after that, no one knew where she went next.

There were, of course, rumors. There were many of them. Network marketing guru Igor Alberts says he heard that Rouge has Russian and Ukrainian passports, and she constantly travels between Russia and Dubai. It was assumed that in her native Bulgaria she had friends with connections that could protect her. They said that she was hiding in plain sight, but now she cannot be recognized due to plastic surgery. I even heard that she was hiding somewhere in London. There was a version of her death, which also cannot be ruled out.

This is clearly a question for professionals. Georgia and I are going to a meeting with private detective Alan McLean. His job is to look for people, and he tells us where we should focus.

“What was her life like? That's what's most important, he says. - Think about her life before OneCoin. Find out who she was friends with, what her family was like, her life. "

The detective advises us to pay attention to the ports in which her boat stopped. It's best to take the tracker off the yacht, he says, and doesn't seem to be joking. I answer that, most likely, I will not be able to do this, remaining within the framework of the law. In that case, says McLean, you need to see which yachts were sold in Athens shortly before or after her arrival.

“This is just my opinion, but I think she's moving around the Mediterranean,” he says.

A few weeks after our first meeting, Alan contacts me again and reports amazing news. His colleagues went around the expensive restaurants of Athens with photographs of Rouge, and in one of the establishments several waiters recalled that she had dinner with them a few months ago. Georgia and I call them, and they confirm it. Rouge seems to be alive and not afraid to visit European capitals.

We find another thread in the ridiculous OneCoin beauty pageant in Bucharest. The competition is bright and vulgar. Men drink champagne from bottles, everyone looks at us in such a way that it becomes very uncomfortable for us. We soak up the atmosphere, root for the British member and leave. But then we hear rumors that Rouge was at the competition - in the same room with us, right under our noses. Only now, after plastic surgery, it was difficult to recognize her. Both Greece and Romania can extradite Rouge to the United States. If she really was in these countries, then only having entered with a filthy passport.

Remembering Alan McLean’s advice to learn about the life of Rouge before OneCoin, Georgia and I begin to explore the Internet. Fortunately, he never forgets anything.

Even the most inconspicuous blog entries and innocent comments on social networks tend to persist. You can find them if you look well. You have heard about Google, but there are several more search engines that are specifically tailored for such a search. We look for old addresses and phone numbers, names of friends and any other information that may help us.

We already know that Rouge spent a significant part of her childhood in Schramberg in southern Germany. We went to the Bavarian Waltenhofen, where Rouge and her father bought a steel mill about 10 years ago, after which Rouge was sued for fraud, and sentenced to a suspended sentence and a fine in 2016.

In Waltenhofen, we learned that Rouge was married to a German lawyer from the well-known firm Linklaters. But we were still surprised when in the course of searches, over and over again, we came across Frankfurt. We did not even think of looking for her in this city.

In Frankfurt and the suburbs, Rouge had several addresses - some she had posted on forums many years ago, others were linked to her old phone numbers. We started looking at photos of Rouge and noticed a friend who started showing up next to her back in 2011. Last summer, this friend visited one of the richest districts of Frankfurt. The expert managed to establish in which park he was photographed by a tiny fragment of a tennis poster in the background. We learned that at the end of 2016, Ruja had a daughter who, we were told, may be in Frankfurt. Ruzha's husband (or ex-husband) lives and works there.

Taking a microphone and a few photos of the doctor, we headed to Frankfurt. We searched for old addresses and in mansions behind huge fences - as they say, the most expensive in Germany. Several people, seeing the photographs, were silent for a long time, giving us hope, but then they still said that they did not know this woman. One postman said he recognized her name, but not exactly. We called her husband (or ex-husband), but he didn't want to talk to us.

Did we get close? Is she really hiding in the very heart of the European Union? We do not know. Frankfurt is probably not the only city where it happens. It may be one of several such places, along with, possibly, Dubai and Russia.

A few days later we received a call. This was a knowledgeable source that we cannot reveal. He told us we were not wrong - Rouge does spend a lot of time in Frankfurt. But we must move on, we must find her home.

“You will find her,” he said. "You need to dig deeper."

She probably knows that we are looking for her, the source said. And probably laughing at us.

On November 5 on November 2019, Rouge's brother Konstantin Ignatov appeared in court in New York as a witness. He testified against a lawyer accused of laundering 400 million dollars from OneCoin's US profits.

In court, it turned out that on October 4, Ignatov made a deal with the investigation, pleading guilty to several episodes of fraud. A reporter was present in the courtroom, who said that Ignatov hinted that his sister had tricked him into cryptocurrency. Using a tried-and-true trick, she explained to her brother that everyone who criticizes OneCoin is haters, and there is no need to listen to them. According to Ignatov, his sister disappeared because she was afraid that someone close to her would turn her over to the FBI. She managed to obtain an “important passport,” he said, after which she asked her brother to buy her a ticket to Vienna and then to Athens.

OneCoin has always denied doing anything illegal. A company spokesman stated the following: “OneCoin fully meets all the criteria for a cryptocurrency.” The Disappeared Crypto Queen podcast, the company said, “will not provide listeners with any truthful information. it cannot be considered objective and unbiased. " OneCoin added that the company is fighting the charges against it around the world.

OneCoin was an old scam with a new digital component - a new and incredibly successful pyramid scheme.

On the subject: The fraudster stole $ 48 million from single women and led a luxurious life, but greed ruined him

But for me this story means something else

She is about the dark side of rapid technological progress. That each new technology creates amazing opportunities for those who understand it, but also creates the risk of exploitation for those who do not.

Rouge Ignatova saw the weaknesses of our society and hit them. She knew that there would be many people who were desperate enough or greedy enough to invest in her project.

She understood that the truth is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish from lies in the face of such a volume of conflicting information. She realized that the mechanisms for protecting society - lawmakers, the police, and us, journalists - will have a hard time understanding what is happening.

But most of all, it is annoying that Ruzha understood - by the time we all understand, she would have long gone into hiding with the money.


As they say Lead Finance, The Hungarian National Bank issued a warning that OneCoin is a pyramid scheme. 28 April 2017 The Bank of Thailand issued a warning against OneCoin stating that it was an illegal digital currency that should not be used in trading. 12 July 2017 The Austrian Financial Markets Authority issued a statement stating that OneCoin is not authorized to carry out banking operations in Austria that require a license.

In a number of countries, regulators have warned that the information suggested to company depositors about the possibility of obtaining super-profits is a criminal invention aimed at illegally taking money from investors.

Victims say too little has been done to draw attention to the scam that helped raise money using Bitcoin's success story. They also believe that this figure from investors is much higher, potentially in the region of $ 50 billion. This would make OneCoin the largest cryptocurrency “Ponzi scheme” to date.

Follow success stories, tips, and more by subscribing to Woman.ForumDaily on Facebook, and don't miss the main thing in our mailing list

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By: