A money laundering case in Germany has uncovered the purchase of a luxury apartment in London by cryptocurrency fraudster Ruja Ignatova, dubbed the 'Crypto Queen'. Jamie Bartlett and Rob Byrne of the podcast The Missing Cryptoqueen explain how Ruja used a UK-based lawyer and wealth manager - who continued to provide their services after Ruja disappeared four years ago. A former doorman at the exclusive apartment block Abbots House in Kensington, London, recalls meeting Ruja Ignatova in 2016, when she was returning from shopping with her bodyguards from Bulgaria.
"These two poor men followed behind him like overloaded donkeys, struggling, and a little out of breath - they were carrying 20 shopping bags each," said the former doorman, James (not his real name). Ruja then bought a variety of luxury goods - Jimmy Choo, Prada, and Calvin Klein - regardless of the price. Moments later, James had time to look into Ruja's apartment, which consists of four bedrooms and has a swimming pool. "When Ruja put Andy Warhol's painting in the closet, my heart broke because I was studying art," the former police officer said.
The painting is a painting of actress Elizabeth Taylor. Another of Andy Warhol's works, Red Lenin, hangs above the fireplace. To the left of the sofa in the reception area is a painting of Queen Bubblegum by Michael Moebius, and depicts Queen Elizabeth blowing bubbles. Private Eye magazine later estimated the flat contained £500,000 worth of artwork, purchased from London's Halcyon gallery. James wondered if Ignatova was deliberately spreading her hidden wealth into easily transferable assets, to avoid confiscation.
BBC On September 17, Ruja's lawyer in Germany, Martin Breidenbach, defended his client in Münster. Ruja has been charged with money laundering for transferring 20 million euros to a law firm in London to fund the purchase of the luxury property. Two other people are also on the bench, facing charges of siphoning off millions of euros from the Dr Ruja fraud case, which totals 4 billion euros. Ruja sells something that doesn't exist, fake cryptocurrency through a company he calls OneCoin. Not registered in the UK When apartment leases were signed in August 2016, financial regulators in at least one European country had issued warnings about OneCoin. Months earlier, Ruja had pleaded guilty to fraud and other charges in a German court, after bankrupting a metal factory he bought and leaving 150 people out of work in 2011. But this money transfer is not widely known.