Known as the “queen of cryptocurrencies”, Bulgarian Ruja Ignatova, 42, was hidden on a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean Sea to escape arrest warrants in several countries, German authorities pointed out to German newspaper Bild.
The scammer disappeared in 2017, when its OneCoin cryptocurrency was at its height, attracting billions of investors of diverse nationalities through a pyramid scheme.
The businesswoman entered the market promising that the cryptocurrency would be the “bitcoin killer” and would help investors increase their returns by up to 10 times, which increased its popularity, points out the Washington Post.
However, authorities have identified fraud and money laundering behind the Bulgarian business. At least 3 million people, from the US and 100 other countries, were deceived in the coup.
Ruja told victims to send funds to OneCoin accounts to buy packages of the cryptocurrency and earn rewards, prompting investors to send wire transfers of the investments, the FBI said. OneCoin allegedly offered a commission for members to encourage others to buy some of the worthless cryptocurrencies.
There has since been a warrant for her arrest in the country and an indictment by the District Court of New York, made in October 2017.
Faced with the situation, Ruja became one of the FBI’s 10 most wanted fugitives. She is also wanted by Interpol in 194 countries, according to the BBC.
According to the German newspaper, during the escape, Ruja changed his features to evade investigators. She dyed her hair blonde and had facelifts, especially her nose, jaw, cheeks and lips.
To make herself even more unreachable, she chose to hide in the Mediterranean Sea because she believes that if she is 12 nautical miles from the coast, the police of no country will have jurisdiction and cannot arrest her.
Ruja is estimated to have a fortune valued at 4 billion euros (approximately R$ 33.2 billion).
Ruja Ignatova was born in Ruse, Bulgaria, but completed part of her schooling in Schramberg, Germany, and holds a German passport. She graduated in law in Konstanz and has a doctorate.
German authorities indicate that, in the country alone, she embezzled more than 88 million euros from victims.
Last week, the FBI began offering a $100,000 reward in its search for Ruja Ignatova. The US federal police are asking for any information that will help bring the fraudster to prison.