Last year, The Missing Cryptoqueen quickly became the true crime podcast that everyone was talking about. It followed the fascinating story of Cryptoqueen Dr Ruja Ignatova and her unexplained disappearance in 2017. A new episode of the podcast has just been released, and it might just lead us one step closer to solving the mystery of her disappearance…
We are a nation obsessed with true crime podcasts.
It started with the first series of Serial in 2015, which followed the story of student Hae Min Lee’s murder. Listeners were hooked to the relentless investigative reporting on a real-life story full of inexplicable plot holes, unexpected twists and many imaginative theories.
Part of the fascination was, arguably, the fact that the case was still ongoing and that we might not ever know for sure what happened. This kind of curiosity is what kickstarted the trend for true crime podcasts, with more recent favourites including Casefile, Girl Taken and The Teacher’s Pet.
Last year, The Missing Crpytoqueen became one of the most gripping unsolved mysteries. And a new episode, which further unravels the mystery, has reignited our fascination.
Here’s everything you need to know about the disappearance of Dr Ruja Ignatova.
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What is The Missing Cryptoqueen podcast?
Presented by Jamie Bartlett and produced by Georgia Catt, The Missing Cryptoqueen is a nine-part BBC Sounds series that follows the story of Dr Ruja Ignatova: the Cryptoqueen behind cryptocoin currency OneCoin.
It looks at how Ignatova raised nearly £4 billion from strangers through an “old fashioned pyramid scheme on a new school platform” scam. And it questions how the hell she managed to disappear off the face of the earth in 2017.
Barlett and Catt spent nine months investigating what happened, speaking with people affected by and involved with the scam and, ultimately, retracing Ignatova’s steps to find out where she is.
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Who is Dr Ruja Ignatova?
Ignatova founded the Bulgarian company OneCoin in 2014, as part of the cryptocurrency wave. Entrepreneur Ignatova promised that OneCoin would overtake Bitcoin, giving the power of money to the people. The charismatic speaker won crowds over during various event speeches, making convicing claims such as: “Unlike money issued by governments, there is a finite number of OneCoins, ensuring they cannot be affected by inflation and are impossible to counterfeit.”
Thanks to her good education, respect from business peers in the industry and adoration from followers, Ignatova managed to persuade worldwide investors to part with literally billions of pounds.
Watch Ruja Ignatova make a compelling speech about OneCoin in 2016
What happened to Dr Ruja Ignatova and OneCoin?
At the height of OneCoin’s success, Ignatova disappeared after not turning up for an event in 2017. She has not been seen since. However, in America last year, Ignatova was charged in absentia with money laundering by the Department of Justice. Apparantly, OneCoin is part of a crypto-scandal and it has been likened to an old-fashioned pyramid scheme. It turns out that the currency is completely artificial, so there can’t be any return on investment. And yet, the company continues to operate.
In reponse to the podcast, OneCoin has said: “OneCoin verifiably fulfils all criteria of the definition of a crypto-currency”. It added that the podcast “will not present any truthful information and cannot be considered objective, nor unbiased”.
What happens in the new episode of The Missing Cryptoqueen?
The new episode begins with the trial of Mark Scott for laundering $400 million of Dr Ruja’s money through shell companies and bank accounts. The star witness in court, as part of a plea deal, is Ruja’s younger brother, Konstantin Ignatov.
Throughout the 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.
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. It takes listeners into a shadowy world of mafia, politicians, and the criminal drug lords that may have helped her escape justice.
Jamie 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.”
Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…