Ignatova has spent over $20 million on Bulgarian property
Some affiliates claim they haven’t been able to withdraw funds out of OneCoin for weeks. Others claim they haven’t been paid for months.
For a select few, there doesn’t appear to be any payment problems at all. Yet the growing caucus of disgruntled investors who are unable to execute withdrawals requests cannot be denied.
With most withdrawal complaints deleted shortly after they are posted, what we’re left with is a fraction of the true scope of the problem.
Here are some recent comments published to the OneCoin Facebook page this week, that have thus far managed to slip through the censorship cracks;
it’s becoming uncomfortable with almost all the members in.my country,they never execute r sells in a month only 3x so 3days out of more dan 20days..so sad
one coin not good at all! cannot sell it! nobody want to buy our onecoin and yet still asking people to join?!
hello, at least let us able to sell some of our onecoin per week to boost up our confident. haha, useless onecoin, nobody want to buy.
holding so many onecoin for what? useless. hell founder, at least buy back from us to proof to us onecoin is valuable.
REALLY? What’s happening hear. why ONE COIN doesn’t execute our sell, always pending and expired, and they are claimiy it.as.d no2 crtptocurrency worldwide.
please execute our sell, we need our money id we need them.
Dr Ruja must face this problem. Some people can sell coin in every several days. But my account being waiting longer than 3 weeks. How’s possible?
I need DR Ruja solve this problem other it can lead to a severe hight risks and trust’s building.
While investors struggle to withdraw the money OneCoin represents to them they’ve earned, at the other end of the company there appears to be no such blockage.
About a week ago the Bulgarian media outlet Capital published an article titled, “Dr Ruja and Buying Property Out of Nothing“.
Almost immediately I began receiving requests for my take on the claims made in the article.
Unfortunately the Capital article was in Bulgarian. And while Google Translate usually provides a reasonable enough translation for me to put together an article of my own, in this instance it was a little too jumbled up in too many places.
With so much data presented in the article, I felt if I ran with Google Translate I was invariably going to reprint an error or two.
At the suggestion of more than one BehindMLM reader, I reached out to the author of the article, Nickolay Stoyanov.
Stoyanov graciously volunteered to put together a translation of his article in his own time. It is this translation from Stoyanov that the following article is based on (with some minor grammatical editing of my own).
As per the headline, the lead story in Stoyanov’s article is OneCoin CEO Ruja Ignatova’s spending of millions of dollars this past year on real-estate.
On April 28, in Slaveykov Square in central Sofia, a company with Bulgarian roots and ambitions to become the world’s cryptocurrency leader opened its new headquarters.
The event was not covered by a single media outlet in the country. But do not blame journalists for lacking interest in the success of local entrepreneurs.
The event was not announced in any way – no mail invitations, no PR insisting attendance over the phone, only a couple of pictures that several days later were posted on the Facebook profile of the company and a succinct press-release on its website.
The reason for the secrecy of Gibraltar registered OneCoin (but based in Sofia and operating through Bulgarian companies as well), is not clear, but probably it can be found in the company’s strange relationships with media.
On one hand, it likes the glossy covers praising its founder Ruja Ignatova. They are presented at OneCoin events for attracting new members willing to buy packages for up to 27,500 Euros, allowing them to learn and mine onecoin and willing to get rich quick by recruiting more members.
On the other hand, the company and its spokesperson do not want to confront journalists directly because of many accusations that their cryptocurrency is not the killer of bitcoin, but rather a pyramid scheme.
Onecoin itself has virtually no use outside the company, it is hard to convert to other currency and a it exists only on the company’s servers. There is a risk that one day it may simply disappear.
Whether this is the case is hard to say for sure, but what is certain is that the business startup is generating good cashflow towards Ignatova, as her property investments are not limited to the new HQ.
For the past year they amount to more than 35,000,000 lev ($20.06 million USD).
Other than photos of a few people at what appeared to be a ribbon-cutting ceremony, no specific details of OneCoin’s new headquarters have been released.
Through some pretty solid research, Nickolay Stoyanov uncovered some shady transactions behind OneCoin’s acquisition of the property.
The new building of OneCoin is situated at 6A, Slaveykov Sq., which for quite some time before the opening was wrapped and reconstructed.
The former owner is GP Hold, who up to 2014 was the main shareholder of GP Group.
The latter company recently received some coverage as it was mentioned by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, as one of the companies with infrastructure building construction procurements that are to be stopped by the government.
The owners of both GP companies are Vladimir Vladimirov-Jitensky and Georgi Vassilev, but the real control of the company is ascribed Valentin Zlatev, the representative of Lukoil in Bulgaria.
But as we will see later in this article, other connections emerge.
On Feb 8th, 2016, GP Hold transferred the building through contribution in kind into a newly setup company, Elmaz Property, with a manager Velizar Radev.
The property was valued by an appraiser at 3.7 million lev ($2.1 million USD) or 1000 euro per sq.m.
Only 10 days later on Feb 18th, 100% of Elmaz property was transferred to UAE registered RISG Limited.
The price was erased from the contract published in the Trade Register. Real estate experts contacted by Capital however claimed the valuation at the contribution was at market level and the real deal was likely to have been at a price close to it.
So, what does the UAE company RISG Limited have to do with OneCoin you ask?
RISG Limited is the company that last year, through its Bulgarian subsidiary One Property, acquired the house of former Sofia mayor Dimitar Mollov at Narodno sabranie square (note: opposite the House of Parliament), for 5 million euros.
Back then Ruja Ignatova was listed as sole shareholder of the offshore company and the Director was Pegaron Invest, a Bulgarian company that up to 2012 is managed by Ignatova, and after that by her mother Veska – both bearing German passports.
Now the documents presented for the new acquisition show that shareholders of RISG are two Panama citizens, though it seems control hasn’t changed.
Why Ignatova and her mother have appointed Panamanian citizens to control shell companies they are purchasing Bulgarian real-estate through, is a mystery.
Straight after the Elmaz deal, Momchil Nikov was appointed manager of the company.
He is also a manager of half a dozen other OneCoin related companies including One Property and One Payments where he has replaced Veska Ignatov.
The latter remains manager of One Network Services, the company servicing OneCoin Limited from Gibraltar.
BehindMLM has previously reported on Ruja Ignatova laundering OneCoin funds through her mother.
In addition to Panamanian citizens being appointed control of RISG, it appears Ignatova and her mother are creating a barrier between themselves and the other half-dozen companies OneCoin launders funds through.
Another connection throughout all these companies is the supplied contact email – office(at)ravenr(dot)com.
Ravenr Limited is also a company based in UAE in which last year Ruja Ignatova was listed as sole shareholder and director, but now she has again been replaced by other persons.
The website of the company, which is registered by Ignatova’s husband (Bjorn Strehl, a german lawyer ), states that:
“Ravenr is an independent single-family office that focuses on wealth accumulation and long-term capital appreciation through investments in high quality businesses from around the globe.
The company has full control over its assets and possesses a mentality of a winner.”
As targeted industries it points financial industry, pharma and mining & recycling.
Any punts as to where Ravenr sources its “wealth accumulation” capital from?
Although OneCoin claims that it is an independent company, it was Ravenr Limited that bought the Crimea restaurant building in downtown Sofia last year for 4.2 million euros.
In a 2015 interview with Capital, Ignatova explained that the building, which is currently being reconstructed, is where she will reside, while the Narodno Sabranie Sq building is where the OneCoin HQ will be, but it seems the plan has since changed.
“The company develops extremely successfully and is setting up as a leader in high-tech software solutions for education, and in virtual currency business.
Such growth requires swift and effective solutions. If we continue to expand at such pace we may soon even need extra space”, stated the reply from OneCoin on its choice of HQ.
Considering OneCoin is little more than a script set to produce a fixed number of coins every 24 hours, what the company’s staff do all day is a mystery.
How many people do you need to employ to keep a Facebook page monitored, store Ignatova’s ballroom gowns, book airplane tickets and create YouTube videos?
The house in which Ruja Ignatova lives and OneCoin’s new headquarters aren’t the company’s only reality acquisitions.
Despite investors capped at withdrawing 1.5% of their Onecoin point balances weekly (that’s if the withdrawal request is honored at all), OneCoin itself, at least up until recently, had no such cashflow problems.
Thus in the course of a year companies linked to OneCoin and Ruja Ignatova have acquired some emblematic buildings in the capital for over 20 million lev ($11.4 million USD). But the interest in the real estate doesn’t end there.
Literally days ago towards the end of April, RIGS Limited invested in a company whose main asset is a land plot near the seaside town of Nessebar. And the deal bears similarities to that of Elmaz Property.
The company is named Pro Dial and was founded in 2014. It is managed by the same Velizar Radev, who was manager of Elmaz for ten days.
He is also a manager of two other companies owned by the partners in GP Group – VGG Energy and Agrohold Propert.
Also his company Via Construct Group was, up to 2011, called GP Stroy (note: literally GP Build) and it used to be owned by Stefan Totev – a minority shareholder and director in GP Group.
Despite Valizar Radev’s name popping up everytime OneCoin goes out and spends investor money, dissecting his exact relationship with and/or role within the company has proven elusive.
At the beginning of 2015 Pro Dial paid 4.98 million lev ($2.8 million USD) to purchase a 114 daa land plot, near Nessebar from the Ministry of Defense.
Back then the name of the buyer was not announced. The deal was reported in the Sega daily newspaper where the ministry explained that this was due to the company not signing a waiver.
The paper calculated that the market value of the property should have been about 9 million euro ($5.1 million USD), based on offers for nearby plots.
How did OneCoin obtain the plot at such a discounted price, from the Bulgarian government nonetheless? Nobody seems to know…
On Mar 17th, 2016, Radev transfered his stake in the company for a minimal price – 66% to Boryana Shehtova (who is a former model) for 8 lev ($4.58 USD) and the rest to her twin sister Anna Shehtova-Vassileva.
According to publications in local lifestyle and yellow magazines the former is a girlfriend and mother of the son of Hristoforos Amanatidis-Taki.
In 2011 he was charged with organizing drug dealing ring, he was wanted through Interpol, fled to Dubai, and in 2015 charges were dropped.
The latter is the spouse of one of GP Group’s partners, Georgi Vassilev.
For a month the two ladies took charge of the management of the company, increasing its registered capital from 12 to 200 lev ($6.88 to $114 USD).
After that on Apr 26th, they sold half of it to RISG Limited. But this time the prices paid were quite different.
11,349,696 lev ($6.5 million USD) was transferred to Boryana’s account and 1,296,944 lev (743,227 USD) to Anna’s.
This is a total of 12.75 million lev ($7.3 million USD) paid by a company related to Ruja Ignatova for a 50% stake in the company.
There it remains partnered with the Shehtovi sisters, who in a matter of dys received millions in legal income.
After the deal the two twins were written off as managers of Pro Dial and are replaced by Veska Ignatov and Velizar Radev.
Anyone want to guess where the $7.3 million that magically allowed RISG to buy back the shares Pro Dial came from?
There’s a definitive pattern starting to emerge here…
This land plot may not be the last planned investment though. A few days ago at the beginning of May, Ignatova’s husband Bjorn Strehl also set up a Bulgarian company – German Real Estate Investment Holding, which judging by the name has plans in the sector.
It too is managed by Momchil Nikov and office(at)ravenr(dot)com is listed as mail for contact.
Capital sent questions to this mail pertaining to the property deals but no reply was received.
Meanwhile Veska Ignatov (Ruja Ignatova’s mother) too is setting up a company – Business Edge Solutions.
It is not clear what it will do, its website “businessedgesolutions.eu” is not yet active and its registration details are hidden.
Call me cynical, but OneCoin doesn’t appear any different from all the other major Ponzi schemes that have come before it.
You have management and their family riding the gravy train, at the expense of the wider affiliate-base.
In OneCoin real-estate deals are made through shell companies, with (literally) paid stooges put in place to throw off the scent.
Then once the deals are closed, Ruja Ignatova and her family either vanish or are quick to reinstate themselves as Directors of the companies.
By all means purchase real-estate if the company needs it. But the manner in which OneCoin are going about it is more closely aligned with money laundering activity than legitimate real-estate acquisition by a reputable business.
To that end Bulgarian authorities have thus far shown no interest in investigating OneCoin. Whether or not the company and Ruja Ignatova are under regulatory investigation in Bulgaria is unclear.
Where the means for these acquisitions come from is an unanswerable question, because no financial data on OneCoin is published.
Critics of the company, who see in its model a Ponzi scheme, would explain the property shopping spree with the nearing of the unavoidable end when the pyramid begins to crumble.
Paying out bonuses of old members with money from newly attracted won’t last if the inflow of money dries up.
And OneCoin has vocal critics far beyond the specialized forums in internet.
Recently Swiss Neue Zeuricher Zeitung published a warning article and so did the influential German magazine Der Spiegel.
It states that Ignatova and her father Plamen owned a steel mill in Bavaria up until 2012, that went bankrupt days after they sold it.
Der Spiegel claims that Ignatova was sentenced to probation for a delayed bankruptcy filing and the prosecution is challenging the sentence.
The assignee of the mill claims that its machines were dismantled to be taken out of the plant before the bankruptcy.
Ignatova is quoted to say that the interpretation is false and that the bankruptcy was caused by a crisis.
Before that red flags sprung from various media in Scandinavian countries where OneCoin is popular.
The company has been subjected to investigation by various authorities in some countries. It’s name has also been mentioned by several financial regulators in warnings, including Bulgaria’s Financial Supervision Commission.
Some just warn on the risks of unregulated investment, while others such as the Latvian supervisor explicitly state OneCoin resembles a pyramid scheme.
If these are all false alarms, OneCoin has not managed to dispel all the doubts, which is critical if your main business is a currency whose value should be generated by the trust in it.
There are reasons for mistrust. There are numerous hurdles to withdraw or sell onecoin and it is not traded on any virtual currency exchange but only on the company’s own system.
While OneCoin announced that it will accept bitcoin so that its customers may buy its packages, the reverse procedure is not possible.
Despite the repeated promises that there will be opportunities to use the currency at real merchants, this is continually delayed.
“The merchant programme is key to our strategy. We plan pilot projects in the end of the year (20016) or the beginning of next year (2017)”, said OneCoin.
But a year ago this was supposed to be fact by the end of 2015. So the lack of trade and utility makes it hard to trust the growing quotes of the cryptocurrency.
Often there are various information of problems between the company and different partners and financial institutions.
Servicing banks are changed and a recent claim is that the company lost it partnership with Chinese card operator UnionPay.
That would be a problem as by Ignatova’s claim, almost half a million of it’s 1.8 milion members are from China.
OneCoin denounces these claims as untrue and states that it is currently working the chinese peer of Visa and MasterCard.
According to Chinese media there are arrests and seizures of assets belonging to members of OneCoin.
CBN Global, which is marketed as the English-language news service of China Business Network (CBN), the financial news arm of state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG), China’s largest media entity after China Central TV, explains that so far there is no formal investigation, but there are protesting clients who can withdraw their means who filed formal complaint with the Cyberspace Administration of Shanghai on Feb 18th.
The media group explained to Capital that they published a formal complaint about Onecoin posting endorsements from CBN on Onecoin’s Chinese website.
CBN denies any connection to Onecoin.
“The company has not received formal complaints for any charges or investigations. OneCoin is NOT included in the list of forbidden cryptocurrencies in China”, stated OneCoin.
BehindMLM first reported on the arrest of Chinese OneCoin investors and ongoing Guandong police investigation back in late April.
While OneCoin has announced its next starry event in Macao or London, sceptics are watching online footage of Dr Ruja promoting an earlier, less successful and short-lived currency BigCoin, which look like a primordial version of OneCoin.
Involvement in BigCoin is missing from Ignatova’s official CV. So is her involvement in Crypto Real Investment Trust – a kind of mutual fund to invest in BigCoin.
The site is not functional but the domain “cryptoreal.com” is still registered in Ingnatova’s name.
On all these topics OneCoin are not eager to answer questions by journalists, especially on the celebration of the opening of new HQ.
It is far more convenient to share a couple of days later on Facebook an exclusive interview of Dr Ruja by top members of the company, whom you can always rely to ask “Why OneCoin is so unique and transparent” instead of bothering you with mundane questions like where the money came from for this house or the other one…
Make of that what you will.
I will say though that, whereas Bulgarian authorities appear to be asleep at the wheel, at least their media are asking the hard questions about OneCoin that need to be asked.
Once again our thanks to Nickolay Stoyanov from Capital, without whose translation and research this article would not have been possible.