Cryptocurrencies are a form of digital money that can be exchanged for goods and services and for trading and investment. They are powered by blockchains which are public ledgers that record transactions in a decentralized manner.
This is not a concept that is well understood by many, which makes it ripe for the picking by scammers and fraudsters.
Enter the mysterious and charismatic Dr Ruja Ignatova, the founder of OneCoin, a cryptocurrency. The podcast “The Missing Cryptoqueen” from BBC Sounds is a chronicle of how she pulled off one of the biggest cons in history, one that is as bizarre as it is sinister. Perfectly binge-worthy, and gripping to the core, this podcast is something that all true crime enthusiasts will love and cherish.
BBC Radio producer Georgia Catt thought she was on to something when she first heard of OneCoin and gushing praises for it from a friend of hers who had invested big. Together with technology journalist Jeremy Bartlett, the duo went on a whirlwind journey – all to find the doer of the deed, Dr Ignatova, who had vanished off the grid. Their quest took them to Germany, Bulgaria (Ruja’s home country), Kampala, and finally the Netherlands, in a dramatic series of events.
The OneCoin Ponzi scheme was seemingly the first of its kind – and it was masterminded by a deceiver who could have come straight out of a novel. Along the way, the podcast guides you through a history of digital currency and blockchain technology.
As Bartlett explains, the blockchain is a list of transactions that is constantly being updated. Anyone can check the blockchain to see what has happened with the currency without the need for a central authority. Bitcoin was probably the first blockchain currency to be widely known and adopted by the public.
OneCoin, however, didn’t even have a blockchain!
It was all smoke and mirrors, a scam. The person (or people) behind it made it look like it had an open-source blockchain, but it didn’t. Every transaction was controlled by OneCoin and was vulnerable to manipulation, fraud, and theft. After raising billions from gullible investors, Ruja disappeared with the money.
What Catt and Bartlett expose the dark side of this technology boom. The number of leads they have interviewed is hugely praiseworthy. The episodes are based on one premise – keep investigating leads until you find a better one. Saddled with a deluge of facts, the duo has very skillfully weaved a gripping tale.
Our only gripe would be the overly dramatic music that shadows the narrative sometimes, but that’s standard BBC Sounds production.
In other news, New Regency Television International has bought screen rights for the podcast, so a TV series might be on its way soon. We honestly can’t wait!
All in all, “The Missing Cryptoqueen” is a must-listen for tech and crime enthusiasts alike! Listen