Ruja Ignatova was found alive after her disappearance 5 years ago
The listing of a property in the heart of London has spawned a notorious cryptocurrency fugitive who blew a $4 billion Ponzi scheme out of the woods.
Bulgarian-born German citizen Ruja Ignatova, 42, and a business partner named Sebastian Greenwood scammed crypto enthusiasts by claiming their crypto token OneCoin was a “bitcoin killer.”
They started pitching it to potential investors in 2014, promising a five to 10x return and calling their investors “idiots” and “crazy.”
However, in October 2017, the scammer disappeared completely when authorities circled her, and she has not been seen since.
She is now on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list and is the only woman currently on the kill list.
Police have warned she likely underwent plastic surgery to change her appearance with little hope that she would ever be caught.
But earlier this month, Ignatova reportedly came out of the lumber mill to claim one of their properties.
A few days ago a penthouse apartment in the London suburb of Kensington, England, went up for sale with an asking price of £12.5million [$15.5 million] which was then downgraded to £11m [$13.6 million].
It is understood that Ignatova bought the property under a company name, but a new rule means that the beneficiary of that company must also be fully named.
As a result, lawyers representing Ignatova made a formal claim to the ownership, listing her as the “beneficial owner” of the flat in a filing with the UK Financial Conduct Authority.
A change in the rules of Companies House – the British equivalent of ASIC – forced Ignatova out of hiding as she had to be named in full and not just her shell company.
The property was previously owned by a company called Abbots House Penthouse Limited based in Guernsey, a well-known tax haven with very little government oversight.
It meant Ignatova was kept out of public records and deeds – until now.
Prestige real estate agent Knight Frank advertised the property, but quickly delisted after it was revealed that Ignatova had ties to her.
Investigative reporter Jamie Bartlett, host of The Missing Crypto Queen Podcast, in association with the BBC, first pointed to a tenuous link between the scammer and the penthouse.
Now that connection has been confirmed, Bartlett said it could be a breakthrough.
“The world’s most wanted woman is now officially listed as the ultimate beneficial owner of a London penthouse,” he told iNews.
“It suggests that she is still alive and there are documents out there somewhere that contain important clues as to her recent whereabouts.
“Last but not least, it should be made easier for the authorities to freeze these assets – and maybe even begin to refund victims.”
U.S. Attorneys have charged Ignatova with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud.
The FBI introduced its Most Wanted List in 1950, and of the 529 fugitives who deserve an honorable mention, she is one of only 11 women.
Desperate to get their hands on the scammer, they offer a $100,000 reward for information that will ultimately lead to her arrest.
The crypto queen may have traveled from Athens to the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Russia, Eastern Europe or even back to Bulgaria with a German passport, according to the FBI.
US Attorney Damian Williams, who is prosecuting Ignatova, released a scathing statement last month saying her crypto tokens are useless.
“In fact, OneCoins were completely worthless,” he said, per CNN.
“(Their) lies were designed with one aim, to get ordinary people around the world to part with their hard-earned cash.”
“She left with a tremendous amount of cash,” added FBI spokesman Michael Driscoll.
“Money can buy a lot of friends, and I could see her taking advantage of that.”
Ignatova’s associates weren’t so lucky.
OneCoin’s other co-founder, Sebastian Greenwood, also fled.
However, unlike Ignatova, he did not remain free for very long.
Back in July 2018, he was arrested in Koh Samui, Thailand, and extradited to the US, where he pleaded guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy to wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money. He will be sentenced in April and could face up to 20 years in prison.
Ignatova’s brother, Konstantin Ignatova, took over the business after she escaped.
He was arrested at LA Airport in March 2019 as he was about to board a flight to Bulgaria.
He has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to count fraud, money laundering and fraud and is due to be sentenced next month.
OneCoin is no longer operational, the token is unusable and the website is inactive.