ONECOIN FRAUD: ‘CRYPTOQUEEN’S’ (Ruja Ignatova) BROTHER (Konstantin Ignatov) PLEADS GUILTY to several charges including fraud + money laundering, may receive witness protection
Konstantin Ignatov, the brother of “missing cryptoqueen” Dr Ruja Ignatova, has admitted his role in the OneCoin crypto-currency fraud.
Ignatov pleaded guilty to several charges, including money laundering and fraud.
OneCoin and the disappearance of its co-founder, Dr Ruja Ignatova, have been the subject of a BBC Sounds podcast.
Investigators believe as much as £4bn was raised globally in what is said to have amounted to a Ponzi scheme.
The Bulgaria-based organisation behind OneCoin Ltd continues to operate and denies all wrongdoing.
Ignatov was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in March.
He signed a plea deal document on 4 October – but it was made public, on 12 November, only after being obtained by Inner City Press journalist Matthew Russell Lee.
By complying with the terms of the plea deal, Ignatov will not face further criminal charges for his role in OneCoin, other than any criminal tax violations that may emerge.
The document says Ignatov’s cooperation with the authorities may “reveal activities of individuals who might use violence” against him or his family.
It suggests he could apply to the US witness protection scheme and be assigned a new identity.
He has not yet been sentenced but faces up to 90 years in prison for his role in the fraud.
Ignatov has also been testifying in the trial of a US lawyer accused of laundering some of the proceeds from OneCoin.
Mark Scott is accused of routing approximately $400m (£310m) out of the US while trying to conceal the true ownership and source of the funds.
He faces one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering and another to commit bank fraud. He has pleaded not guilty.
During that trial, Ignatov has revealed more details about the disappearance of his sister Dr Ruja Ignatova.
According to his testimony, Dr Ignatova was living in Sofia, Bulgaria before she vanished, the Inner City Press reports.
He confirmed that Dr Ignatova had told him critics of OneCoin were “haters”, and that she was “very tired”.
She was afraid somebody close to her was going to give her up to the the FBI, he said.
He claims she told him she had got hold of a “big passport” and asked him to get her plane tickets to Vienna, Austria and then Athens, Greece.
Ignatov said he had not spoken to his sister since she had disappeared. He had hired a private investigator to find her but had been unsuccessful.
The US government has said it expects Mr Scott’s trial to conclude next week.
Analysis – The Missing Cryptoqueen presenter
Ignatov’s plea deal will come as a great relief to OneCoin’s critics.
Those who were threatened with legal action for calling OneCoin a scam will now feel vindicated.
Even though I have spent so long investigating this case, I was surprised to see the brother turn so dramatically against his sister.
Ignatov seems to be implying even he was duped by her.
There is nothing definitive about her whereabouts yet – but there are certainly some new leads to follow.
The case will slow down the continuing promotion of OneCoin – but it might not stop it entirely.
In the past, OneCoin promoters have dismissed all criticism and evidence as being politically motivated or coming from “haters”. They may do that again.
I believe the head office in Sofia remains open for business and I have already seen some supporters say they will continue to promote.
For lower-level investors this might be a difficult time – as they will have to admit they have been duped and their money is gone.
That won’t be easy.
BACKGROUND: Details of Konstantin Ignatov’s OneCoin guilty plea
Courtesy of Matthew Russell Lee from the Inner City Press, details of Konstantin Ignatov’s guilty plea have been made public.
That Ignatov was cooperating with the DOJ was revealed during the early days of Mark Scott’s criminal trial.
It was assumed Ignatov had also reached a plea agreement, but details weren’t publicly available.
Reporter Matthew Russell Lee managed to get a copy of Ignatov’s plea agreement and made it public.
As per Ignatov’s plea agreement, the four charges leveled against him total a potential ninety years imprisonment.
The agreement sees Ignatov admit forfeiture allegations in all four counts.
This will see Konstantin
forfeit to the United States … any and all property … the constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to (OneCoin related) offenses.
With respect to cooperation with the DOJ, Ignatov is required to
truthfully and completely disclose all information with respect to the activities of himself and others concerning all matter about which this Office (DOJ), the FBI, the IRS, and any other law enforcement agency requires of him.
The scope of Ignatov’s cooperation extends to attending any requested meetings, producing documents any other tangible evidence requested.
Ignatov’s testimony at Mark Scott’s trial is also part of the plea agreement.
The defendant … shall truthfully testify before the grand jury and at any trial and other curt proceeding with respect to any matters about which this Office may request his testimony.
Again underscoring OneCoin’s ties to organized crime, the plea agreement also makes reference to retaliatory violence.
It is understood that Ignatov’s truthful cooperation with this Office is likely to reveal activities of individuals who might use violence, force, and intimidation against Ignatov, his family, and loved ones.
Should Ignatov’s cooperation present a significant risk of physical harm, this Office, upon the written request of Ignatov, will take steps that it determines to be reasonable and necessary to attempt to ensure his safety and that of his family and loved ones.
It was disclosed in Ignatov’s release filings that he has a pregnant girlfriend. Presumably “family” above does not extend to Ignatov’s parents or his sister, Ruja.
“Steps” to ensure protection of Ignatov and his family include witness protection,
whereby Ignatov, his family, and loved ones, if approved, could be relocated under a new identity.
Who specifically might cause harm to Ignatov and his family is not disclosed.
Ignatov’s plea agreement was signed by himself and his attorney on October 4th.
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