Mystery of 'The Cryptoqueen' who vanished with Bitcoin worth $13BILLION in one of world's biggest ever scams

DR Ruja Ignatova was quite literally "The Cryptoqueen" – or at least that's what she made people think.

The glamorous Oxford-educated entrepreneur built a cyber empire by convincing more than a million people worldwide to invest in what she dubbed "The Bitcoin Killer".


Glitzy sales pitches and promises of easy money using her OneCoin tokens took the world by storm- including a famous sales event at Wembley Arena.

But with no blockchain set up – the digital ledger that acts the foundation to manage crypto – the OneCoin was virtually worthless.

It is one of a number of failed crypto currencies – if it was ever meant to be a success.

And then, she vanished taking with her an estimated $13billion in Bitcoin in what is believed to be one of world's biggest ever scams.

When Dr Ruja mysteriously disappeared in 2017, the investment was exposed to be nothing more than a Ponzi scheme.

Four years later and the mastermind behind OneCoin remains on the run.

Her co-founder Sebastian Greenwood was arrested in 2018 and her brother Konstantin Ignatov pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering in connection with the scheme in 2019.

He is yet to be sentenced after his May 2021 hearing was pushed back, but he faces up to 90 years in prison.

Konstantin alleges the last he heard from his sister was just before she disappeared when she told him she had sourced a "big passport".

He claims she asked him to book her flights to Vienna, Austria, and then Athens, Greece.

ON THE RUN

But nobody seems to know whether Dr Ruja boarded those planes, or where she might be now.

Many have speculated she could be hiding in Russia under a new name, while others have said she is protected by powerful people in Bulgaria.

Germany, where her family emigrated when she was 10 years old, is often highlighted as a likely location.

And there have been suggestions she is hiding out in Dubai after OneCoin victims filed a lawsuit against the organisation alleging $500 million is still in bank accounts in the country and that Ruja is holding 230,000 Bitcoin.

Some even think the businesswoman is dead.

If she is on the run and has managed to keep her whereabouts secret for so long, it shows just how smart Dr Ruja is.

And it explains how she managed to dupe unwitting investors from 175 countries into parting with huge sums.


When OneCoin launched in September 2014, cryptocurrency was the new thing – despite Bitcoin being made available to the public in 2009.

Many were hesitant to throw their life savings into a non-traditional investment, but Dr Ruja convinced people that OneCoin was "safe and easy to use" – perfect for first-timers.

Die-hard investors were encouraged to recruit friends and family with the promise of commissions and bigger end payouts.

And it worked. As bitcoin prices rose, her "mass market" alternative continued to grow.

Dr Ruja went from being a consultant to a celebrity in high demand across the globe.

She addressed adoring fans in Dubai, Singapore and Macau, and in 2016 walked out at Wembley to Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys and fireworks galore.

After securing global success, Dr Ruja reportedly got wind the FBI were onto her and the fact OneCoin's "price" was merely a made-up figure.

In October 2017, she was due to reveal how investors could start cashing in their coins at an event in Lisbon, but she never showed up.

Some thought she had been kidnapped, others thought she had gone into hiding – but one thing was certain, she was gone.

Two years later Dr Ruja was charged in absentia with money laundering in the United States.

The Department of Justice described OneCoin as an old-fashioned pyramid scheme – but the company continues to claim it was a legitimate cryptocurrency.

Mark Scott, the lawyer who reportedly laundered $400 million for Dr Ruja, $50 million of which he collected in fees, was officially disbarred in 2020.

He was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection to OneCoin.

The Sun Online previously told the story of Gerald Cotten, a rogue Bitcoin trader, who died and took with him $215million in crypto as investors are convinced he faked his death.

And it follows the following the case of Bitcoin traders Raees Cajee, 21 and Ameer, 18, who fled South Africa after allegedly pocketing £2.5billion.

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