How a fake Bitcoin clone cheated millions around the world

In 2017, Igor Alberts, based in Amsterdam, dreamed of beating Bill Gates as the richest man in the world. He had earned his millions for 30 years in different multi-level marketing schemes, but in May 2015 he found a gold mine, a product so lucrative that he told his partners to stop what they were selling and push it full time.

The Igor gold mine was a cryptocurrency, a Bitcoin clone called OneCoin that had been launched a year earlier by a Bulgarian startup. In a short time, Igor was earning € 1 million per month for OneCoin sales. For 2017, I was earning 2 million euros a month.

Because OneCoin was doing so well, Igor became an investor and began to dream of the day he would own 100 million OneCoin worth € 100 each ... Prom dresses and diamond earrings that Ruja Ignatova studied at the University of Oxford, obtained a doctorate from the University of Konstanz in Germany, then, according to her, worked with McKinsey and Company, and in 2014, at 34, OneCoin began. Cryptoqueen was also designed.

Not listed in his CV was his ability to make people eat out of his hands. Every time she took the stage with her ball gowns, diamond earrings and dark red lipstick, Ruja left her partners and investors hypnotized. Igor became a convert at a OneCoin event in Dubai. In two years, nobody will talk about Bitcoin anymore, he said at the Wembley Arena in London in June 2016. People around the world bit the hook.

The cryptocurrency, especially Bitcoin, was the new gold rush. Small investors wanted to participate in the hope that if they bought cheap and shot securities they would make them rich in a few years. Even farmers in Uganda tried to buy a portion of OneCoin selling cattle and borrowing. Investment packages started at € 140 and rose to € 118,000. In total, between 4,000 and 15,000 million euros were invested in OneCoin between August 2014 and March 2017. Ponzi scheme What investors did not know was that Ruja was operating a massive scam.

OneCoin was not a cryptocurrency. A true cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, relies on a blockchain record of transactions that cannot be manipulated, to prevent piracy and fraud. Every Bitcoin buyer has a copy of the Bitcoin blockchain, but none can make changes to it. OneCoin did not have a blockchain. Jen McAdam, based in Glasgow, had bought OneCoin for € 10,000 and saw its value multiply by ten in just a few months.

She had begun shopping and travel plans for the day OneCoin would launch her exchange to convert cryptocurrency into cash. But the launch was still delayed. Finally, investors were promised a decision during a meeting of OneCoin promoters in Lisbon in October 2017. That was the day Ruja disappeared. She did not show up for the meeting. The FBI trail froze on October 25, when it took a cheap flight from Sofia to Athens.

Some investors, like Jen, woke up belatedly to the fact that their investments in OneCoin were rubbish. The increasing valuations on which they had built their dreams were only numbers written on a computer by a OneCoin employee. But many others are still in denial. They believe that their investments will bear fruit if they wait a little longer. Surprisingly, the OneCoin scam continues. The BBC reports: Until this week (November 24), the OneCoin headquarters remained open for business, and people continued to promote the currency. Because it was a multinational operation, local investigators gave up after encountering jurisdiction limits.

As for Ruja, nobody is sure what happened to her. Was it just a front for an elaborate scam? Have they killed her? According to some reports, it was seen in the expensive restaurants of Athens earlier this year. It is also said that he underwent plastic surgery and settled in Frankfurt , where his daughter lives. The dog on Wall Street, as Ruja was called, has become a ghost.

(Adapted from the BBC report, Cryptoqueen: how this woman cheated the world and then disappeared)