Who is Ruja Ignatova, ‘Cryptoqueen’ and one of FBI’s most wanted?

   2023-01-23 12:01

Meet 'Cryptoqueen', one of FBI’s Most Wanted fugitives and scammer behind OneCoin’s $4 billion fraud

Photo for representation. Reuters

Ruja Ignatova, popularly recognised as the ‘Cryptoqueen’, is accused of swindling millions of investors of more than $4 billion or nearly Rs 31,580 crore through her own OneCoin cryptocurrency company. She is listed among the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) top 10 Most Wanted fugitives. The 42-year-old woman from Bulgaria travelled to Greece in 2017 and completely vanished with the stolen money, right before the US officials issued a sealed indictment and an arrest warrant for her, prompting law enforcement officials to offer a $100,000 reward for the person who would be able to locate Ignatova.

The FBI is actively looking for Ignatova right now. There are just 11 women out of the 529 fugitives on the list of the FBI, and she is the only female criminal among the top 10 fugitives. Additionally, she is also one of the most wanted fugitives in Europe.

Who is Ruja Ignatova?

Ruja Ignatova originally holds German citizenship, despite being born in Bulgaria. Her father was an engineer, while her mother used to work as a school teacher. She earned a degree in European Law from Oxford University. Then, she jetted off to Sofia to serve as a consultant for McKinsey & Company. She worked in the global firm for a few years before founding her own company- OneCoin.

OneCoin Launch:

Ignatova established OneCoin in 2014 with the goal of dethroning Bitcoin from its stature of being the most popular digital currency. Soon after its launch, the company managed to grab a massive user base across different countries, including the United States. The Cryptoqueen used to advise people to buy OneCoin and provide them with reading materials to understand it. After listening to her speech, many people decide to invest millions in the digital currency.

Rise of OneCoin:

At least three million investors put money into OneCoin over the course of nearly two years. Ignatova gave them assurance that OneCoin would be lucrative, in contrast to bitcoin. She previously conducted many workshops on this.Those promotional articles continued to elicit responses from people who mistook them for legitimate news.

Using a global network to promote the coin to her friends and their families in exchange for their own payouts, Ignatova and her company generated over $4 billion through the OneCoin pyramid scheme between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the third quarter of 2016. The currency, however, had no actual worth and could not be used to complete any purchases. Before boarding her flight from Sofia on 25 October 2017, Ignatova promoted OneCoin as a profitable alternative to Bitcoin in the expanding cryptocurrency sector while giving a presentation at London’s Wembley Arena in 2016.

In 2019, the US unveiled an indictment against Ignatova, accusing her of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiring to launder money. In her wanted poster brought out by the FBI, the authority noted that the Cryptoqueen is believed to be accompanied by armed guards and associates. Moreover, she may have undergone plastic surgery or other cosmetic changes to alter her appearance.

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