Digital currency OneCoin is in a mess with thousands of investors locked out of their money and the scheme’s founder on the run from US authorities accused of running a pyramid scam.
Police and regulators reckon OneCoin has raised £4 billion from tens of thousands of investors around the world.
Founder Ruja Ignatova argues OneCoin is a genuine cryptocurrency but faces money laundering charges in America when she surfaces after going underground to escape arrest for fraud two years ago.
New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance described OneCoin as “an old-school pyramid scheme on a new-school platform”.
However, spokesmen for OneCoin, based in Bulgaria, unsurprisingly disagree they are involved in a scam and that “OneCoin verifiably fulfils all criteria of the definition of a cryptocurrency”.
Vision for a financial revolution
“Our partners, our customers and our lawyers are fighting successfully against this action around the globe and we are sure that the vision of a new system on the basis of a financial revolution will be established.”
Around 70,000 investors in the UK ploughed money into OneCoin but cannot unlock their cash by selling or trading their stake, according to a BBC report.
One investor, Jen McAdam, 49, from Glasgow, explained how she raised £8,000 for her OneCoin investment and then persuaded family and friends to club together to stake another £220,000 with the company.
None of them have had any return on their money.
Fraud and money laundering charges
“I know through the different victims’ groups around the world that it is people just like me who are affected,” she said. “They invested their life savings, they remortgaged homes and they convinced their friends and family to get involved -and they feel as awful as I do about it all because we were all duped.”
Meanwhile Ignatova’s brother Konstantin was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with wire fraud conspiracy that could see a jail sentence of up to 20 years. Ruja Ignatova was charged in her absence with money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud.
Separate US money laundering proceedings involving $400 million of OneCoin are being brought against OneCoin executive Mark Scott.
OneCoin is not listed on any cryptocurrency exchange, so has no floating price against other cryptocurrencies.
The OneCoin web site is still open and inviting investment.