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Exclusive: The Missing Cryptoqueen Details the Rise and Fall of Ruja Ignatova's OneCoin Con –



The Missing Cryptoqueen Details the Rise and Fall of Ruja Ignatova's OneCoin Con

#Missing #Cryptoqueen #Details #Rise #Fall #Ruja #Ignatova039s #OneCoin #Con

The Missing Cryptoqueen: The Billion Dollar Cryptocurrency Con and the Woman Who Got Away with It, by Jamie Bartlett, Hachette Books, 320 pages, $29

Newcomers to bitcoin sometimes dismiss the cryptocurrency as a pyramid or Ponzi scheme. The OneCoin scam shows what it really looks like when a fake blockchain serves as cover for a multilevel marketing fraud that pays early investors with funds from new marks.

Here we see the near-messianic pageantry common to overhyped projects. We see Matryoshka armies of international holding companies and frontmen. We see starry-eyed everymen scrambling to invest every last family dollar in “educational materials” that come with “free” coins (to avoid triggering regulations). We see Curaçaoan banking consortia, Maltese gambling concerns, and a mysterious maven manipulating everything behind the scenes before absconding suddenly into the night.

Jamie Bartlett’s The Missing Cryptoqueen details the sleazy rise and unsatisfying fall of the OneCoin con while investigating the possible whereabouts of the swindler behind it all: a runaway wannabe-fashionista from Bulgaria named Ruja Ignatova.

In an industry rife with swindles, OneCoin is in a league of its own.

It is common for cryptocurrency projects to overpromise on technology or skimp on security, leading to large losses on the market or in user wallets. It is not normal for a cryptocurrency to be structured like a multilevel marketing scheme, paying “investors” more on a defined schedule when they recruit others. Nor is it normal for the coin to be completely managed by a for-profit company without any actual blockchain at all, unbeknownst to the many eager “package holders.” Consequently, no other alleged cryptocurrency has managed to concoct a mammoth Ponzi scheme resulting in $4 billion to $15 billion in losses. Only Bernie Madoff can compare.

Ignatova had no expertise in computer science or technology. Her main selling points were that she used to be a consultant at McKinsey—so impressive—and liked to wear long gowns and red lipstick. This, combined with her exotic Germano-Bulgarian accent and links with various Sofia elites, proved enough to dazzle gullible targets into putting far too much money into her blockamamie scheme.

Bartlett, who chronicled the early bitcoin and contemporary cypherpunk communities in his 2014 work The Dark Net, teases out what few threads we have on the furtive Ignatova to weave a portrait of an ambitious and shameless con woman who stopped at very little to project the image of herself that she wanted onto the world. She wanted to be rich, she wanted to be glamorous, and she wanted to be famous. Exactly how she got there was not her concern.

In 2013, Ignatova teamed up with Sebastian Greenwood, a key grifter in this tale, who was at that point hawking a “new Facebook” multilevel marketing scheme called SiteTalk. He was impressed by Ignatova’s “bitcoin, but for pensions” conference concoction and saw an opportunity to combine the hype-driven worlds of cryptocurrency and multilevel marketing to extract maximum profits. They shamelessly ripped off an existing hybrid called BigCoin and slapped a new name on it: OneCoin.


The masterminds behind OneCoin clearly thought little about such trifling details as launching a blockchain or coin economics. Rather, they focused their energies on recruiting top multilevel marketing talent: They poached top sellers from existing pyramids and tried to sell them on the OneCoin idea. The pitch was basically that this ball-gowned Bulgarian would kill bitcoin and “make you rich.” For whatever reason, this was enough to give OneCoin momentum, and the scam started selling itself.

One strength of The Missing Cryptoqueen is Bartlett’s ability to blend gripping storytelling with the rather dry regulatory context and legalese necessary to understand how Ignatova pulled this off and just how brazen the endeavor was. For example, the OneCoin team knew that if their pyramid sold coins directly, they could easily run afoul of securities regulations, as they would essentially be paying commissions on stock trading. Instead, the team sold “educational materials” about OneCoin that were tied to “free coins.” A “starter pack” cost €100, or $138 USD, for a PDF and around 200 coins; a “Tycoon Trader” package would run you $6,900 for five PDFs and 28,000 coins.

If you sold Tycoon Trader packages to other marks, you would get a cut of any sales they made after that; this is your “downline,” and it’s where the real money is made in multilevel marketing schemes. The idea is to expand your downline as much as possible. In practice, this means cajoling friends and family members into the pyramid. The top tiny percent, called the “Crown Diamonds,” made off with millions in downline commissions. The vast majority made chicken feed, but there was always the promise that OneCoin would “go public”—be traded on a major exchange like Binance—and get a ticket “to the moon.”

The currency itself was a big fake. Purchasers would see coins in their wallet after purchasing an educational package. But there was no blockchain there at all, just a database that would credit and debit as requested—at least usually. The only exchange on which OneCoin could be traded, xcoinx, was secretly owned by OneCoin, which manipulated the price. Another pressure valve was Dealshaker, supposedly an Amazon killer, where OneCoin promoters could sell tchotchkes for their fake coins. The websites were amateurish and hardly functional, with misspelled FAQ pages.

On paper, people were millionaires. Xcoinx would limit sales, set the price, and arbitrarily double the coins to make people feel like they were rich. They earnestly believed they could retire to a yacht one day. This hope was enough to keep dupes holding the bag for far too long; as Bartlett wrote his book, some stubborn devotees were still holding and trading OneCoin. Meanwhile, Ignatova and her co-conspirators treated the OneCoin bank accounts like personal piggy banks, buying multimillion-dollar homes across the world and investing in sketchy projects however they saw fit.

Ignatova and her cronies never cared about OneCoin. They didn’t care about the ideas they threw around in public, like “banking the world’s poor” or the “financial revolution” or even killing bitcoin. They wanted to make money and get out, and Bartlett marshals the panicked communications that show Ignatova scrambling for an exit while the international financial surveillance system crashed down onto her billion-dollar fraud. OneCoin kept chugging to the bitter end, running on fumes and a phantom staff well after Ignatova disappeared somewhere within Greece in 2017. Bartlett’s best guess is that she is living in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea.

This book is packed with scurrilous subplots and tacky characters, and it offers an illuminating look at the world of international finance and the many traps that eventually did OneCoin in. It comes at an opportune time, given the public’s ample appetite these days for a good scam story. Hulu’s The Dropout and Apple TV’S WeCrashed got loud buzz by dramatizing how narcissists can exploit techno-optimism and plain old human greed. The former covers Elizabeth Holmes and her bloodsucking Theranos scam, while the latter tackles WeWork, Adam and Rebekah Neumann’s kombucha-soaked and Vision Fund-ed office cult.

Perhaps we will see a similar streamed or televised treatment of “Dr. Ruja,” as she insisted on being called, and the black hole of the OneCoin world. Like Holmes and the Neumanns, she makes a great villain. But Ignatova is different, and arguably more sinister, than those better-known charlatans.

Theranos and WeWork humiliated elites who poured in their money and reputations based on the charm and visions of their charismatic founders. These companies certainly hurt many average people along the way; WeWork exploited its employees, while Theranos exposed patients to possibly deadly health misinformation. But in terms of investment, it was mostly the well-to-do who were on the hook.

With OneCoin, by contrast, Ignatova and her team of lawyers, moneymen, brand consultants, and multilevel marketing maestros shamelessly targeted and stole from average people—in many cases, some of the world’s most vulnerable. Even Ignatova’s brother Konstantin, who ran the scam after Ruja disappeared, felt a twinge of guilt as he hawked OneCoin packages to unsuspecting farmers in Mbarara, Uganda.

The complication with multilevel marketing frauds and Ponzi schemes is that the victims are often accomplices. They are so blinded by promises of riches that they harangue loved ones to join, using the same lies that worked on them. This can encourage people to double down on their beliefs, because admitting that you were suckered into a fraud also means admitting that you lured your family with the same false promises.


The Missing Cryptoqueen is a fascinating look into the schematics and psychology of a scam. Let’s hope more people learn about the OneCoin debacle and the woman behind it. Everyday people need to protect themselves against such predation, whether or not Ignatova ever sees her day in court.

This article originally appeared in print under the headline “ScamCoin”.


Exclusive: Democrats go to war with Iowa and New Hampshire over 2024 –




Democrats go to war with Iowa and New Hampshire over 2024

#Democrats #war #Iowa #Hampshire

For a half-century, the presidential nominating calendar has been regular and predictable. But, on Friday, the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the DNC decided to blow up the 2024 primary process.

The committee approved a new primary schedule that ended Iowa’s status as an early state and calls into question New Hampshire’s place on the calendar.

The calendar was proposed by President Joe Biden earlier this week and greatly diminishes, if not ends, the longstanding places of Iowa and New Hampshire in Democratic nominating contests. Both were states where Biden did poorly in 2020. In a letter proposing the change in the calendar, though, Biden emphasized the need to ensure voters of color had a bigger role in the nominating process.

The new schedule puts South Carolina first on Saturday, February 3, 2024, a move that came as a surprise to top Democrats in the Palmetto State. The draft calendar then has New Hampshire and Nevada three days later on February 6, followed by Georgia on February 13 and Michigan on February 27. The full Democratic National Committee will almost certainly ratify this calendar early next year.

This means that the Democratic nominating contest will begin with South Carolina, the only state where Tom Steyer in 2020 and Al Sharpton in 2004 have finished in the top three in a presidential primary. However, it’s likely to set off a chaotic scramble over which state goes first.

National political parties don’t determine when states hold their nominating contests. That’s the subject of state law. However, national parties are fully within their rights to sanction states that don’t follow their rules for how to hold nominating contests, or throw out the results altogether.

In advance of rolling out this new schedule, the Democratic Party already added more teeth to its ability to crack down on states that buck the DNC to hold nominating contests earlier in the primary. Recent rules changes give the party more latitude to crack down on candidates who campaign in states that hold unsanctioned contests.

In setting the calendar, the resolution passed Friday also requires state elected officials to pledge to abide by DNC rules, otherwise they lose their position as an early state. In Georgia, it requires Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state, to certify that he will hold the state’s presidential primary on February 13. This would either require Georgia to hold two entirely separate presidential primaries or for the Peach State to jump the line in the Republican nominating process. A spokesperson for Raffensperger did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But Georgia is a sideshow in this. The real targets are Iowa and New Hampshire, which have been the first two states in Democratic presidential primaries for generations and have perennially been the target of resentment as a result. Removing Iowa from the calendar accomplishes that cleanly. The state has been an obvious target since its fiasco in reporting results during the 2020 caucuses, which were in part the result of rules changes imposed on the Hawkeye State by the national Democratic Party. Scott Brennan, a DNC member from Iowa, told Vox, “We’re disappointed and believe the calendar passed ignores a vast swath of the US. There is no pre-window state in the Central or Mountain time zones. “


In the Republican presidential primary, Iowa is maintaining its traditional role as the first nominating contest and there is no reason that state Democrats couldn’t ignore the DNC and go at the same time. The entire national media will already be camped out in the state and any contest will receive significant coverage even if the caucuses would amount to no more than a glorified beauty contest.

The new rules also implicitly target New Hampshire and set up a conflict where the state legally cannot abide by the DNC’s rules. Under state law, New Hampshire’s primary must go first in the nation, seven days before any other state. (Iowa does not conflict with this because a caucus is deemed sufficiently different from a primary.)

The DNC resolution going into effect would require New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and Jason Osborne, the state’s GOP House majority leader, not only to agree to repeal the state’s first-in-the-nation primary law but also to change state election law to allow more widespread early voting. In a statement, Sununu said, “This was Joe Biden’s decision, and once again, he blew it. … The good news is that our primary will still be first and the nation will not be held to a substandard process dictated by Joe Biden and the Democrat Party.” Osborne simply sarcastically told Vox, “Yes, I have a letter for the DNC. Looking forward to sending it.”

Joe Sweeney, the former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party and a state representative there, told Vox, “I would say it’s likelier President Biden comes back to New Hampshire to campaign again after all this than any New Hampshire Republican caving to DNC bullying regarding our FITN law … New Hampshire won’t be bullied by DC and certainly not by the DNC Rules Committee or the president.”

Ray Buckley, the longtime chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, succinctly told reporters, “We’ll have first in the nation, and whatever sanctions they have, so be it.”

This sets up a spiraling conflict over the calendar and opens up the possibility for other states to go rogue and move up. There is precedent for this. In advance of the 2008 presidential primary, the final calendar wasn’t set until December 2007, and even then there was conflict over Michigan and Florida going rogue and holding primaries in defiance of the DNC, which was not resolved until May 31, 2008, at the very end of the primary process.

But this is a year in which conflict over the calendar has comparatively few consequences. If, as expected, Biden runs for reelection, he is unlikely to face a serious challenge for the nomination. This means that any conflict over the calendar will happen during an election that is likely to be a fait accompli.

But what it does mean is that there is a precedent set in advance of 2028, which will be a wide-open field, to minimize the role of Iowa and New Hampshire. It will open the door for new fights, over exactly what states come first, that will happen with potential candidates posturing for the calendar to help them.

For all the criticisms of Iowa and New Hampshire as too white or too rural or too unrepresentative of the Democratic Party, their place on the calendar at least provided certainty and an electorate that, for better or worse, was accustomed to vetting presidential candidates. That’s not the case moving forward. The next competitive Democratic presidential primary will happen without any preset calendar or clear rules of the road.

In the meantime, the Republican presidential calendar is set and a host of candidates will show up in Iowa and New Hampshire as usual in advance of 2024, while the national Democratic Party might go to war with the state parties in both states.

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Exclusive: The Midterms Were a Hollow Victory for Democrats –




The Midterms Were a Hollow Victory for Democrats

#Midterms #Hollow #Victory #Democrats

But amidst all the liberal revelry lies an uncomfortable, little-reported fact: Democrats lost the House popular vote by three points.

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Exclusive: After Macron Complains About U.S. Climate Policy, Biden Rushes To Appease the EU –




After Macron Complains About U.S. Climate Policy, Biden Rushes To Appease the EU

#Macron #Complains #Climate #Policy #Biden #Rushes #Appease

It appears that when the rest of the world says “jump” to Joe Biden, his response is “how high?”

After French President Emmanuel Macron ripped U.S. energy policy on Wednesday, saying that the Inflation Reduction Act could have dire consequences for the French and other European economies, Biden appeared to carry on with business as usual with his America Last policy.

Biden immediately went into appeasement mode, saying the U.S. and the European Union could “work out” any differences caused by the Biden administration’s, what Macron called “super aggressive,” climate policies.

At issue are government subsidies for green tech and energy. 

Macron and Biden appeared at a joint press conference where Biden stated, “We’re going to continue to create manufacturing jobs in America but not at the expense of Europe. We can work out some of the differences that exist, I’m confident.”

Macron agreed saying, “Everything that is absolutely decisive, because as a matter of fact, we share the same vision and the same willingness.”

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European Concerns

At the heart of European concerns about the Inflation Reduction Act is that if components for electric cars and other green technology is manufactured in the U.S. and gets subsidies from the federal government, European manufacturers will suffer economic consequences. 

With Europe already struggling with high fuel costs due to the war in Ukraine (though not France, which derives 70% of its power from nuclear energy,) Macron has taken the lead to call on the EU to come up with its own green subsidies program.

According to Politico, of course the Biden administration is all in to help other nations while it heaps close to $400 billion in new taxes on Americans.

RELATED: Americans Are Fed Up With Woke Military Leadership: Poll Shows Less Than 50% Now Trust

Earlier Biden-Macron Spat

This is not the first time that Joe Biden has been in hot water with his French counterpart.

Back in October, while attending a Democrat fundraiser, Biden stated that the U.S. could be looking at for the first time in decades “the direct threat of the use of a nuclear weapon if, in fact, things continue down the path they are going.” His comments were in reference to the war in Ukraine.

The nuclear annihilation comments did not sit well with Macron. He responded by saying, “We must speak with prudence when commenting on such matters. I have always refused to engage in political fiction, and especially … when speaking of nuclear weapons,” he added. “On this issue, we must be very careful.”

Macron also said that he wanted “to be respected as a good friend,” but that Inflation Reduction Act policy would “perhaps fix your issue but you will increase my problem.”

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