What really happened to the ‘Cryptoqueen’?

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The “Cryptoqueen” vanished more than five years ago with more than $4 billion, and at least one report said she was murdered roughly a year later.

A new police document, published by Bulgarian investigative outlet BIRD, or the Bureau for Investigative Reporting and Data, suggests that Ruja Ignatova, who disappeared in 2017 after scamming investors with a fake cryptocurrency, was killed in a hit ordered by a Bulgarian crime boss.

But Atanas Tchobanov, a journalist at BIRD who worked with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to publish the Pandora Papers, told Fortune that scenario was just “a hypothesis.” BIRD first caught wind of the rumored murder while reporting on a police officer shot dead in March 2022.

“It’s not conclusive,” added Tchobanov, who was once a member of the board of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

The document in question was found in a safe in the police officer’s apartment. There was a one-page report that detailed how the brother-in-law of Bulgarian crime boss Christophoros Amanatidis, a.k.a. Taki, drunkenly told an anonymous informant during a yacht trip in Cuba that Taki had ordered a successful hit on Ignatova. According to this account, Ignatova was killed on another yacht in the Ionian Sea in November 2018, and her body was carved up and tossed overboard.

This account is heavy on hearsay and so should be taken with a grain of salt. That said, it is one of the few public leads to detail the whereabouts of Ignatova, who landed on the FBI’s most wanted list after absconding with billions.

Moreover, Tchobanov said, a source who was in contact with Ignatova’s brother disputed the document published by BIRD. That source said Ignatova contacted her brother in early 2019, months after her rumored killing.

In January, she was reported to be selling a four-bedroom penthouse in London for approximately $13 million. Instead, prosecutors in Germany were organizing the sale, after having seized the property.

The Cryptoqueen rose to prominence in 2014, when Ignatova, a German-Bulgarian businesswoman, suddenly announced that she had created a rival to Bitcoin called OneCoin.

“OneCoin is easy to use. OneCoin is for everyone,” she said to a packed stadium in England in 2016. “Make payments everywhere, everyone, globally.”

Using multi-level marketing tactics, she convinced crypto newbies to invest billions in her project, which turned out to be a pyramid scheme. Her new token didn’t even run on a blockchain.

In 2017, after reportedly undergoing multiple plastic surgeries, she boarded a plane from Bulgaria to Greece and was never seen again. Today she would be 42.

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