The BBC has produced a podcast that covers the strange disappearance of Dr Ruja Ignatova, the founder of the OneCoin cryptocurrency who disappeared on the day of a planned appearance at a OneCoin event in Lisbon, Portugal in late 2017. Dr Ignatova, who faces up to 85 years in prison for her influential part in the scam, has never been heard of since, and the BBC decided to investigate her disappearance after featuring OneCoin in a cryptocurrency exposé in February 2018.
OneCoin the “Bitcoin-killer”
OneCoin, launched to little fanfare in 2014, was billed as the ‘Bitcoin-killer’, at a time when Bitcoin was rising in prominence. The project had grand ambitions (allegedly) to bank the unbanked and unify the world as part of a “financial revolution”, led by the charismatic Dr Ignatova, who wowed crowds with her immaculate appearance and outstanding presentation and debating skills that won her, and her project, legions of fans all over the world. The wheels began to fall off in 2016 however as banks and governments worldwide got wind of the scheme and the questionable practices backing the (fictitious) numbers, warning would-be investors that it had all the hallmarks of a pyramid scheme. Despite this, OneCoin still managed to persuade investors around the world to part with as much as ($4.9bn).
Dr Ignatova Vanishes
In 2017, despite a Federal Circuit Court judge in California ruling the project legitimate on the basis of a lack of evidence, police around the world began to close the net around the project. In India, nearly 30 people, including Dr Ignatova, were charged as part of the scheme in July, with 23 arrested. Attempts to seize the company’s funds were hampered by accounts being emptied by outside sources before the seizures could be made. With the police closing in, Dr Ignatova failed to show at a OneCoin event and has not been publicly seen since. The self-styled “Bitch of Wall Street”, who faces five separate charges for money laundering, wire fraud, and securities fraud, apparently once mentioned an “exit plan” in an email, which she seems to have carried out, potentially with billions of dollars at her disposal. No one knows exactly what happened to her or where she is now, and those who lost money on the OneCoin scam will be dearly hoping the podcast can shed some light on her whereabouts and help bring her to justice.