One of the main problems with cryptocurrencies – in addition to the lack of regulation in places that are particularly attractive for company branches such as Hong Kong, the Bahamas or Gibraltar – is that comparatively few people are still really familiar with them.

Ursula Scheer

Editor in the Feuilleton.

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The general public is taking note of the fall of the "King of Crypto", Sam Bankman-Fried, who, as the founder of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, had made billions at a young age, was courted by powerful figures from politics and business and supported by celebrities.

But why exactly his trading platform crashed into bankruptcy, pulled currencies like Bitcoin and Ether down and could now even bring stars like Gisele Bundchen to court;

how a billion dollars of customer funds could disappear and what the gambling in the FTX sub-companies has to do with it seems generally cryptic.

Miscalculation or Fraud?

Has anyone here made a bad miscalculation or also calculated cheated?

The bankruptcy proceedings will show that.

The lesson for overly naïve investors is to look closely instead of blindly trusting in the hunt for returns or a safe haven for capital.

Especially since knowledge of how blockchain currencies work is not common knowledge.

It is also worthwhile to learn from past mistakes.

For example, from the case of the “cryptoqueen” Ruja Ignatova, which is structurally completely different, namely absolutely criminal, but psychologically has parallels, which the documentarist Johan von Mirbach unrolls in a film that is as catchy as it is insightful.

His research can already be seen as a series in the ARD and Arte media libraries.

It's a story of greed triumphing over reason and morality.

The billionaire scammer is gone

Ruja Ignatova is responsible for one of the biggest financial scandals in history.

Since 2017, the German-Bulgarian woman, who was exposed as a fraudster worth billions and convicted in absentia by an American court in 2019, has disappeared.

She is the only woman on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list.

From her high school days in Schramberg, Baden-Württemberg, where she moved with her parents when she was ten, to her disappearance after a flight from Sofia to Athens, the ninety-minute film follows a woman who was initially ambitious - a "top student", says a former teacher -, then got richer and richer: By introducing herself as a former McKinsey force, she invented and sold a cryptocurrency that didn't even exist, to countless investors worldwide.

How was that possible?

To explain it, the filmmaker brings in the crypto fraudster's former companions, such as her best friend, the Icelandic model Asdis Ran, or Ignatova's former adviser, the former secret service agent Frank Schneider from Luxembourg, in front of the camera, as well as financial experts, lawyers and other researchers.

The result is a multi-faceted portrait of an intelligent, luxury-obsessed mass manipulator who works hard for her unscrupulous goals and who encounters victims who believe the fairy tale of the miraculous accumulation of capital.

Three cheated small investors who gambled away their savings in Germany or Uganda show the harsh reality.

The scam is still going on

What they were counting on, as Philipp Bovermann from the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" and the economist Michaela Hönig explain, was a pyramid scheme swindle.

The investors bought “education packages” for five thousand euros, received 60,000 tokens – alleged digital coins of the cryptocurrency OneCoin – which were supposedly worth 240,000 euros, and resold them to others for a crypto commission.

The "multi-level marketing" turned investors into subcontractors in a system of made-up courses that was hyped up at mass events with "Dr.

Ruja” was affirmed on stage like a mixture of pop concert and evangelical mass.

Those at the top of the pyramid benefited from the inflow of capital.

All others were exempt.

Ruja Ignatova soon no longer knew what to do with all the money, invested in real estate and set up a network of shell companies around the world.

Did that attract the Bulgarian mafia?

Was Ruja Ignatova murdered?

Or does she live under powerful protection in Dubai, where OneCoin was headquartered?

The documentation cannot answer that.

But she traces how glamor lent illusion to a edifice of lies that was bound to collapse.

That the OneCoin scam is still going on without Ruja Ignatova, under a different name and operated by others, is just one of many punchlines in this incredible story.

The Crypto Queen - The Big OneCoin Fraud

, this Monday at 11:20 p.m. in the first and in the ARD media library.