As the German lawyer of Ruja Ignatova, the creator of the notorious OneCoin Ponzi scheme, is on trial in Germany on money laundering charges, the legal proceedings have shed some light on her assets including the purchase of a luxury London penthouse.
Before vanishing off the face of the earth in 2017, the so-called ‘Cryptoqueen’ used the scam’s proceeds to fund a lavish lifestyle that included a 7,000 sq ft (650 sq m) penthouse in the city’s affluent Kensington district. The property is estimated to be worth some GBP 13.5m (USD 18.2m), according to data obtained by the BBC.
Ruja’s German lawyer, Martin Breidenbach, is on trial in Münster, Germany, along with two other individuals. He is accused of money laundering by facilitating a transfer of EUR 20m (USD 23.2m) to a London law firm. The funds were used to buy the luxury apartment.
The four-bedroom penthouse, located in a building fitted with a swimming pool, was filled with valuable art that included an Andy Warhol painting stuffed in a cupboard, said Jamie Bartlett of The Missing Cryptoqueen podcast.
This “broke my heart because I went to art college,” he was quoted as saying.
The property deed lists Abbots House Penthouse Limited as the property’s owner. The anonymous Guernsey shell company allowed Ruja to purchase the apartment without having her name appear on the deed, or in public records on Channel Island.
Under the scam, investors worldwide were promised guaranteed returns as high as 300% for investing bitcoin (BTC) or US dollars with a Nevada-based outfit. The fake cryptocurrency set up by Bulgaria-based offshore businesses OneCoin Ltd and OneLife Network Ltd which were registered in Dubai and Belize, respectively. Estimates of the losses generated by the international ponzi scheme vary, but US prosecutors alleged OneCoin could scam investors across the world out of USD 4bn.