Turn around! No sign of Ruzha Ignatova, Germany is selling an apartment…

When a penthouse in London bought by the “disappeared crypto queen” Ruzha Ignatova reappeared on the market, it seemed that the wanted Bulgarian woman was organizing a sale from the shadows.

In the same week that her “supreme penthouse” for 12.5 million pounds was put up for sale, new transparency rules in the United Kingdom came into force, and Ignatova was publicly revealed as the owner, dnes.bg recalls.

But Ruza disappeared five years ago and is currently on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.

The BBC previously revealed how she secretly bought the four-bedroom maisonette, which is said to have once been filled with expensive artwork and designer clothes, after financial regulators in at least one European country have already issued a warning about her fake cryptocurrency.

Ignatova went missing on October 25, 2017, after being notified of increased police investigations into her fraud in Sofia. OneCoin, created in 2014, is one of the largest known such scams, with the FBI estimating its value at $4 billion.

In the UK alone, the BBC estimates that investors have lost more than £100 million.

Laila Begum, from Bow, one of the London Rose victims, says her family lost more than £54,000 in OneCoin after being persuaded to invest by a family friend.

But now neither the UK police nor Ignatova herself are behind the sale of her flat. Instead, the people selling the property are prosecutors in the northwestern German city of Bielefeld, the BBC revealed.

Better known for its Dr Oetker headquarters and 13th-century castle, ancient Bielefeld is also home to economic crime specialists who are leading European efforts to hunt down OneCoin’s leader.

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With the approval of Bielefeld prosecutors, Ignatova’s London maisonette went back on the market this month. The apartment is subject to a Guernsey court order from November 4, 2021, a day after the BBC revealed how the Island’s offshore secrecy hid its purchase.

Before Ignatova was named as the owner of the property, the official owner was a Guernsey-based company registered at the address of Aquitaine Group Limited, a wealth manager who never responded to the BBC’s questions about their work for the crypto queen.

Bielefeld prosecutors also accused Ignatova’s German lawyer of money laundering for transferring 20 million euros to finance the purchase of a penthouse and a second apartment in the same building. Martin Breidenbach denies the accusation. The trial against him and two other people continues.

When the Kensington penthouse came back on the market, the asking price was £12.5m – a million less than the price paid in 2016.

It was reportedly later reduced again to £11 million, but the apartment is no longer listed for sale. The estate agent, Knight Frank, did not respond to the BBC’s questions about whether it had been sold, but reiterated that it had “fully complied at all times with its legal and regulatory obligations”.

Under new transparency rules, failure to identify the ultimate owner of a UK property could prevent it from being sold. If Ignatova had not been revealed as the owner of the penthouse by January 31, 2023, the sale might not have been possible.

The new legal requirements also require the owner’s “ordinary residential address” to be submitted. In Ignatova’s case, Companies House would not confirm whether it had received such an address, but said: “We are working closely with law enforcement colleagues.”

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Senior prosecutor Gerald Rübsam hopes that any proceeds from the sale of the London penthouse may one day compensate OneCoin’s victims.

“Initially we try to avoid returning the money to the people behind the fraud. That’s our first idea, to take the money earned from crime,” he says. “It is still unclear whether the money will go to OneCoin investors, we have to wait and see how things develop.”

Begum is pleased that the German authorities have approved the sale of the penthouse, but was critical of the way the City of London police handled the investigation.

“I believe that the UK authorities should help everyone who is British and has legal proof to say that this is my money that went into OneCoin,” she says. “We need that kind of support, and I think they’ve just been very lackadaisical about it.”

In 2019, the City of London Police closed their investigation into OneCoin, saying they were “unable to identify any OneCoin assets in the UK”.

In December 2022, OneCoin co-founder Sebastian Greenwood pleaded guilty in New York to fraud and money laundering charges.

The search for Ignatova continues, with the FBI offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to her arrest.

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