Bielefeld: “Crypto-Queen” a billionaire fraudster?

Keller’s real name is different, but he doesn’t want his name published to protect his family. Because the woman he’s been looking for for years is said to have assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and she’s not considered particularly emphatic. The “Schwarzwälder Bote” quotes his self-description from the Schramberger Abiturzeitung with the following words: “Perhaps I liked to bully some classmates.”

Skipped two classes

Ruja Ignatova came when she was ten years old from Bulgaria to Germany. She jumped because of her intelligence two classes and studied law at the University of Koblenz with a scholarship from the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation. Ignatova is the inventor of “OneCoin” – a cryptocurrency that only exists on paper but is believed by thousands of investors around the world. Also because Ignatova in big shows, for example at Wembley Stadium in London, in front of thousands of investors for “OneCoin” announced “Woman was rightly revered by some. It was a kind of cult,” Keller explains. The narrative was this: Anyone who missed entering “Bitcoins” in time has the opportunity to make up for what they missed with “OneCoin”.

“Several billion damage”

The story caught on and the money started flowing to Ignatova. Even a so-called “double day”, in which investors were informed that the number of their “OneCoins” would be doubled with the same market value, did not seem to have made anyone skeptical. More and more investors bought “OneCoins”. Keller: “Generally for amounts around 5,000 euros. And they totaled countless millions. Today, the Federal Criminal Police Office assumes damages of “several billion US dollars”.

Germany was one of the first countries where official bodies took a closer look. At the end of 2015, the Steinfurt district savings bank reported a suspicion of money laundering. She had found that more than 700 amounts totaling 2.5 million euros had been received in one account in a short time. Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank followed.

A couple on trial

He became the focus of the investigation couple from Greven. Attorney General Gerald Rübsam, spokesperson for the Bielefeld white-collar crime prosecutor’s office: “The couple ran IMS International Marketing Services GmbH and, according to our investigations, were responsible for transferring income from OneCoin investors abroad.” Between December 2015 and September 2016 alone, 360 million euros flowed. The couple have been on trial in Münster since last year, but the procedure is about to collapse: one of the judges has been ill for a long time and the procedure risks having to start all over again.

Revealing email

Prosecutor Keller: “After the money laundering report in 2015, it was not clear whether there was a criminal offense. There were indications, such as the fact that the price of OneCoin only went up ‘rise – without any setbacks. But we didn’t have anything really exciting.” Investigators only obtained this in 2019, when US authorities showed Bielefeld prosecutors emails that Ruja Ignatova and her deputy Sebastian Greenwood had exchanged. One says: “We don’t really mine, but we talk shit to people” – “We don’t mine coins, we bullshit people.” Keller: “That was proof of the fraud.”

Here in Sofia, the Bielefeld public prosecutor’s office raided the company’s headquarters. Photo: IMAGO

Later, investigators discovered that there was no supply and demand market that determined the price of “OneCoin”, but that Ruja Ignatova alone determined what the price published on the website should be. . Prosecutor Keller: “According to our assessment, the Sofia-based company also lacked the computing capacity to produce a cryptocurrency.” During a search in Sofia, computers with a maximum value of a few thousand euros were found. “The company has spoken in publicity videos about computer systems the size of a football field,” says Attorney General Gerald Rübsam.

Investors were hoping for Day X

Although, unlike “Bitcoins”, “OneCoins” cannot be exchanged and the cryptocurrency has not been accepted as a means of payment, the number of investors has continued to increase – encouraged by Ruja Ignatova and many highly paid sales managers. Gerald Rübsam: “Investors thought their day would come and that at some point there would be great demand.” Hardly anyone seemed to be suspicious, and so far only a handful of complaints have been received from German investors, says the prosecution Basement, cellar.

Prosecution terminated in the United States

The National Criminal Police Office in Düsseldorf had long had investigators targeted at Dr. Ignatova – without success. One has been running for two weeks now Public inquiry with photos The wanted. “Since then, the LKA has received 72 tips, but no one saw the woman last week,” says prosecutor Keller. The 42-year-old is wanted worldwide and there is already a full indictment in the United States. It is captioned: “The United States of America vs. Ruja Ignatova, known as Cryptoqueen”.

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