A visual look at the timeline of the OneCoin scam.
In 2014, Ruja Ignatova and Sebastian Greenwood founded OneCoin in Sofia, Bulgaria. The promise was that OneCoin would become bigger and better than Bitcoin and a new revolutionary cryptocurrency. It ticked all the boxes a "better" coin had to tick:
- Safe transactions
- Easy to use
- Cheap and time-saving
In reality, it was merely an MLM scheme founded on selling plagiarized educational materials and using the "coin" as a front to lure people in.
As early as 2015, allegations of OneCoin being a Ponzi scheme surfaced. Still, its following only kept growing. This culminated in CEO Ruja Ignatova, who possesses a PhD and marketed herself as a highly intelligent entrepreneur, appearing at Wembley Stadium in front of 90,000 people in the summer of 2016.
Although OneCoin was at its peak in 2016 the second-biggest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, several central banks cautioned against investing in it. That did not stop the founders from living a lavish lifestyle. Ruja Ignatova reportedly purchased real estate and fine art in London and had entertainment stars perform for her birthday at private parties.
In 2017, German financial authorities issued a cease and desist order. In the fall of 2017, Ruja Ignatova vanished. She failed to show up for a meeting of OneCoin promoters in Lisbon and did not reappear after that. The last trace of her is a flight to Greece in October of 2017.
In 2018, the OneCoin headquarters in Sofia, Bulgaria, were raided. The same year, co-founder Sebastian Greenwood, an experienced scam artist before launching OneCoin, was arrested in Thailand.
In 2019, Konstantin Ignatov, the brother of Ruja Ignatova and new CEO after his sister's disappearance, was arrested in Los Angeles. He is currently facing charges in the United States.
Ruja Ignatova has been added to the top ten most wanted list in the summer of 2022. However, neither her brother nor her co-founder seems to know about her whereabouts.
Several trials against OneCoin and its founders are still pending in several countries. German authorities opened a case against OneCoin, and both Sebastian Greenwood and Konstantin Ignatov await their sentences in court cases in the United States. The fake cryptocurrency has been linked to money laundering and even terrorist financing, although the entire extent of the case has not been uncovered to this date. Experts estimate the financial damage to be between $4 to $15 billion.