The hugely popular podcast The Missing Cryptoqueen returns with a new episode on BBC Sounds, continuing the investigation into a cryptocurrency scam and the woman responsible ten months after the last episode.
Dr Ruja Ignatova, the founder of OneCoin, hasn’t been seen since October 2017 and although the hunt for her continues, the new podcast episode explores some major new revelations in what is one of the biggest scams of the last twenty years.
The episode begins with the trial of Mark Scott for laundering $400 million of Dr Ruja’s money through shell companies and bank accounts with the star witness in court as part of a plea deal being Ruja’s younger brother, Konstantin Ignatov.
Throughout the new episode, listeners are introduced to Frank Schneider – a former spy who ran his own private intelligence agency, who was brought on board by Dr Ruja as something of a Mr Fixit, according to her brother Konstantin.
As part of the court case, we hear recordings of Dr Ruja during a bugged phone call with her then secret lover, the American financier Gilbert Armenta. This is the first time Ruja has been heard outside of her crypto currency ‘visionary’ speeches, and she appears angry and frustrated as she grows suspicious of Armenta who, unbeknown to both her, is recording the telephone conversation secretly for the FBI.
In the new episode Jamie and producer Georgia learn of Ruja’s ties to London with former employees explaining how she planned to settle there with her baby daughter, describing her luxurious penthouse apartment and office space in Kensington.
It was also in London that OneCoin had hired the top UK law firm Carter Ruck and – via Frank Schnieder’s company Sandstone – a UK PR firm called Chelgate. Two separate interviewees claim that Carter Ruck and Chelgate worked together to put pressure on The Financial Conduct Authority in the UK to remove their warning about OneCoin from their website which they did in 2017, ten months after publishing it.
The removal of this warning was welcomed by Dr Ruja as it became the perfect marketing tool for the supposed legitimacy for OneCoin, encouraging more people to invest in the scam.
To this point, Carter Ruck responded by saying they cannot respond to inquiries on this matter for professional reasons, including client confidentiality whilst Chelgate stated “OneCoin and Ms Ignatova had their own PR/Media Relations facilities and we were not carrying out any kind of media relations programme. We were among a group of professional advisors providing council on a complex and evolving situation.”
The FCA responded: “We published the consumer notice in 2016 at the request of City of London Police. The decision to take our alert down was made in conjunction with City of London Police who were investigating the matter. Our alerts are primarily intended to warn consumers about firms carrying on regulated activities without the required FCA authorisation. It did not appear that OneCoin was carrying on any activities that required FCA authorisation. The FCA does not regulate crypto assets and therefore it could not take this further.”
The episode also pieces together for the first time the moments leading up to Ruja’s dramatic disappearance, and traces large money transfers Ruja made before she vanished. This latest instalment will take listeners into a shadowy world of mafia, politicians, and the criminal drug lords that may have helped her escape justice.
Jamie Bartlett says: “Although the last episode was November 2019, our investigation continued. We couldn’t just stop there. Over the last few months we’ve discovered that the story of OneCoin and Ruja is even stranger – and even darker – than even we had imagined. Huge numbers of people have been following the investigation worldwide and we’re delighted to bring them up to date with what we’ve found out – and to carry on the search.”
Episode 9 of The Missing Cryptoqueen is available now on BBC Sounds.