In April, Europol added the infamous OneCoin Ponzi scammer Ruja Ignatova to its most wanted list. Now, according to a report by Der Spiegel, German authorities are investigating Ignatova’s husband Bjorn Strehl with reports of raids in Frankfurt and several other cities.
With a €5,000 reward for any information leading to the OneCoin founder’s arrest and an obvious change in gears by European authorities, it seems the net is closing in on one of the industry’s most infamous criminals.
Ruja Ignatova and the OneCoin saga
In 2014, Dr. Ruja Ignatova, a Bulgarian with a PhD in private international law, launched OneCoin, promising that it would be the Bitcoin killer.
Over the next several years, Ignatova and her co-conspirators traveled the globe recruiting victims into one of the largest Ponzi schemes the world has ever seen. At its peak, OneCoin is believed to have had over 3 million members in 175 countries, with the scam bringing in over $4 billion for Ignatova and her accomplices.
In October 2017, Ignatova was seen for the last time in Athens, Greece. There have been multiple reported sightings of her in Dubai, Thailand, and elsewhere, but none have been verified.
Since her disappearance, Ignatova’s brother Konstantin, OneCoin’s co-founder Karl Sebastian Greenwood, and its lawyer Mark Scott have all been arrested and prosecuted.
In 2019, British journalist Jamie Bartlett and BBC Radio 5 Live released The Missing Crypto Queen detailing the rise and fall of Ruja Ignatova and OneCoin. It became an instant hit with digital currency enthusiasts everywhere.
Analysis: the biggest scam in the history of digital currencies, but by no means the only one
OneCoin is the largest scam in the history of the digital currency industry so far, but it’s sadly not the only one. In truth, the industry is replete with scams. While well-known ones like OneCoin, BitConnect, and the BitClub Network make headlines, countless speculators have lost money to schemes, scams, hacks, and outright frauds since Bitcoin was launched 13 years ago.
Why are there so many scams and frauds in the industry? Aside from the vast amount of capital washing around in it, the scams largely exist because of the unregulated nature of digital currencies. From rogue exchanges that allow their owners to countertrade their customers, to unregulated lending platforms that promise unsustainable yields, to less-than-transparent stablecoins like Tether being responsible for most of the trading volume in the industry, it’s little wonder that scams proliferate through the industry.
Yet, there are signs that things are changing. Authorities across the world are mandating exchanges to play by KYC/AML rules, banning anonymous transactions, and holding those who raise funds responsible if they don’t deliver on promises. At the same time, the chorus of voices warning that something must be done about the state of the digital currency industry is growing louder; from US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen calling for stablecoin regulations to SEC Chair Gary Gensler vowing to end the ‘Wild West’ era on the industry, it’s clear that authorities everywhere are fed up with the status quo.
As the net closes in on Ruja Ignatova, it’s simultaneously closing in on ‘crypto’ at large. Scammers and speculators beware; the jig is almost up.
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