Bulgarian 'Crypto Queen' stole $13.2 billion in massive scam — and Europe is still trying to find her
Sofia, Bulgaria - 12 May, 2019: People pass by the office of OneCoin cryptocurrency founded by Ruja Ignatova (Shutterstock).

On Thursday, VICE News reported that Dr. Ruja Ignatova, the so-called "Crypto Queen," is now Europe's most-wanted fugitive after building a pyramid scheme that stole $15.5 billion around the world.

Ignatova famously vanished in 2017 and has not been seen since.

"Five years after going on the run, police have appealed for the arrest of Dr Ruja Ignatova, founder of OneCoin, a cryptocurrency that sold itself as an alternative to Bitcoin but was instead a pyramid-style scam which relieved people from 175 countries of at least £4 billion," reported Max Daly. "The scam, one of the biggest frauds in history, which could have reaped as much as £12.7 billion from investors, was the subject of the BBC’s 'The Missing Cryptoqueen' podcast."

"Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, has put up a €5,000 (around $5,300 or £4,300) reward for information that leads to her arrest," said the report. "It said Ignatova was 'the driving force and intellectual inventor' of OneCoin and 'is suspected of having prompted investors worldwide to invest in this worthless currency.'"

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In reality, OneCoin had no way of selling or transferring it, and no public blockchain backing it — and Ignatova's network of shell companies was linked to alleged organized crime figures, like Bulgarian "Cocaine King" Hristofos Amanatidis. Despite this, tons of people bought into the scam, including Christian churches in the South Pacific.

"Journalist Jamie Bartlett has been trying to hunt down Ignatova, a 41-year-old from Bulgaria, since making the Missing Cryptoqueen podcast in 2019," said the report. "'She is one of the biggest criminals in the world,' said Bartlett, who puts the size of her fraudulent scheme as second only to that of Bernie Madoff, architect of the largest ever Ponzi scheme in the 2000s. 'White-collar crime is sometimes not seen as serious as violent crime. But this scam involved at least several billion pounds of people’s money, resulting in people going bankrupt and families destroyed in every corner of the world.'"

This comes as the cryptocurrency market as a whole, which has been plagued by scams and pump-and-dump schemes for years due to a lack of financial regulation in most countries, faces a massive crash that has wiped out $1 trillion in value over the last month.