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The final chapter of the Cryptoqueen: murder, money, and misadventure?

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The final chapter of the Cryptoqueen: murder, money, and misadventure?

Was Ruja Ignatova’s sudden disappearance in October 2017 an escape from law enforcement or something far more sinister? Read on.

When it comes to crypto scams, few stories are as wild and mysterious as that of Ruja Ignatova. Known as the “Cryptoqueen,” Ignatova was a Bulgarian-born, Oxford-educated financier who managed to swindle investors out of a whopping $4.5 billion with her fake cryptocurrency, OneCoin. 

Ruja’s tale took an even darker turn in October 2017, when she vanished without a trace. 

Since then, her story has become the stuff of legends, mixing elements of organized crime, vast sums of money, and brutal violence.

The latest developments in Ruja’s saga come from a thorough investigation by BBC. Their findings suggest Ruja had deep ties to Hristoforos Nikos Amanatidis, better known as Taki, a suspected Bulgarian organized crime boss. 

There are allegations that Taki, who was supposed to protect her, might have turned against her, possibly even ordering her murder. 

Let’s explore everything we know about her and the theories about what might have happened to the elusive Cryptoqueen.

What do the latest developments say?

Launched in 2014, OneCoin promised investors the kind of high returns that Bitcoin (BTC) pioneers enjoyed. However, unlike Bitcoin, OneCoin had no blockchain technology backing it. 

It turns out that OneCoin wasn’t a cryptocurrency at all. It was a pyramid marketing scheme where members were encouraged to buy coins and recruit more people to do the same. 

The people at the top of the pyramid were made out like bandits, while everyone else was left holding the bag. OneCoin’s market had no liquidity. You couldn’t buy or sell or even transfer your currency. The only way to cash out was to convert it to another currency or ask Ignatova. 

This scam operated until around 2017, when authorities began to close in on Ignatova, prompting her sudden disappearance.

In October 2017, as U.S. and German authorities were about to arrest her, Ignatova fled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece. Since then, she has not been seen publicly. 

According to a police informant’s report, she was killed in late 2018 on Taki’s orders, her body dismembered, and thrown into the Ionian Sea. 

The informant’s claim is supported by leaked documents and statements from Taki’s associates, though it remains unverified by the BBC and other official sources. Taki is also suspected of using OneCoin to launder money from his drug trafficking operations

Despite these claims, Ignatova remains on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list – offering a $100,000 reward for any information leading to her capture , suggesting that the agency believes she may still be alive. The FBI generally only removes individuals from this list when there is concrete evidence of their death. 

Adding to the complexity, properties linked to Ignatova in Dubai, including luxury apartments, have reportedly been taken over by associates of Taki. These properties were allegedly acquired with the ill-gotten gains from OneCoin.

Furthermore, reports from bird.bg suggest that Ignatova’s death, if true, was a strategic move by Taki to eliminate a potential threat. Taki, who has been implicated in numerous criminal activities, including drug trafficking and murder, might have viewed Ignatova as a liability once she became a fugitive and hence decided to get rid of her.

How did she pull it off and who is Frank Schneider?

Ignatova pulled off one of the biggest crypto frauds in history with the help of Frank Schneider. Schneider, a former spy and the head of Luxembourg’s intelligence agency played a key role in maintaining the OneCoin operation.

After leaving the intelligence service, he founded Sandstone, a private investigation firm that provided critical support to Ignatova’s scheme.

Schneider was instrumental in liaising with legal professionals and public relations advisors who helped keep the OneCoin scam running smoothly. 

His background in intelligence allowed him to gather sensitive information, allegedly providing Ignatova with confidential police details to stay ahead of law enforcement. However, Schneider consistently denied these allegations.

In April 2021, Schneider was arrested near the Luxembourg border by French police. Initially imprisoned for seven months, he was later placed under house arrest while awaiting extradition to the United States. 

In December 2022, despite losing an appeal against his extradition, Schneider expressed his distrust in the U.S. legal system, fearing he wouldn’t receive a fair trial and criticizing the reliance on plea bargaining. 

He estimated his legal defense could cost between five and eight million dollars, a sum he claimed he couldn’t afford.

In a surprising turn of events, Schneider disappeared in May 2023, just before his scheduled extradition. French authorities, despite fitting him with an ankle tag, have been unable to locate him. 

Speculation about Schneider and Ignatova abounds. While Schneider’s exact location remains unknown, his disappearance suggests he may have powerful allies helping him evade capture. 

Similarly, Ignatova’s fate is still shrouded in mystery. Theories range from her being alive and in hiding, protected by criminal networks, to her being murdered.

What does the public sentiment say?

Public sentiment around Ignatova is a mixed bag of intrigue, skepticism, and humor. A Reddit thread effectively weaves all these sentiments.  

Some users have speculated that with $4 billion at her disposal, Ignatova could have easily afforded extensive plastic surgery and a new identity, allowing her to have vanished from the public eye. 

This theory has been bolstered by the idea that she might have been living luxuriously in a country without an extradition treaty, safe from international law enforcement.

However, some users have expressed deep disdain for Ignatova, citing the devastating impact of her scam on average investors. One user noted, “It’s disgusting how she ruined thousands of lives, especially in rural Africa where people were poorly informed.” 

Theories about her demise have also been prevalent. Some believe that Ignatova might have been killed by those she defrauded. 

There are also discussions about the implications of her scam on the perception of crypto assets. Comments like “All cryptocurrencies are fake” and “Crypto: The scam of choice” also flooded the Reddit forum .

Amid all this, some users have also shown a grudging respect for her audacity. Comments like “Mad respect for her. Sorry crypto bros” also surfaced, revealing a strange admiration for her ability to execute such high-scale fraud and evade capture. 

Whatever may be the case, the search for truth in her story keeps the world on edge, wondering if justice will ever be served or if she will remain a ghost of the financial underworld.