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Emirati royal may have lost millions of dollars in ‘cryptoqueen’ bitcoin scam: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file picture shows Sheikh Saoud al-Qassimi (L) at an Intergovernmental Collaborative Action Fund for Excellence (ICAFE) event in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) alongside its co-founder Shariar Rahimi. (Via Twitter)

An Emirati royal may have lost millions of US dollars worth of bitcoin in an alleged cryptocurrency scam run by Bulgarian-German convicted fraudster Ruja Ignatova, who has been put on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list.

Sheikh Saoud bin Faisal al-Qassimi, a member of the royal family ruling the UAE’s Sharjah, got involved in a 2015 deal with Ignatova, who is best known as the founder of a Ponzi scheme known as OneCoin, BBC television news network reported, citing leaked documents from Dubai’s courts.

According to the leaks, Sheikh Saoud, the son of a wealthy business tycoon, handed Ignatova, also known as the “cryptoqueen”, four USB memory sticks that contained 230,000 bitcoin tokens, worth around €48.5 million ($50.5 million) at the time.

In return, she wrote three cheques to Qassimi from the Dubai-based Mashreq Bank, worth roughly €50 million ($52 million), but they were unable to be cashed as Ignatova’s accounts were being closed due to money-laundering concerns. 

Jamie Bartlett, a British journalist who spent the last four years trying to locate the infamous cryptoqueen, wrote in the British newspaper the Daily Mail that Qassimi’s bitcoin deal with Ignatova was in exchange for owning one of her companies.

In 2020, Dubai authorities unfroze Ignatova’s funds, despite the fact that more than a year earlier the US Department of Justice had published an indictment for her, labeling OneCoin a “fraudulent cryptocurrency.”

According to Dubai Court of Appeal records, Sheikh Saoud sought in April to get the cheques’ money paid to him from Ignatova’s funds in Mashreq Bank. But as the 42-year-old remains missing, it is unclear if he will ever see his money.

On Thursday, the FBI put Ignatova on the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List” for “allegedly leading a fraud scheme that affected millions of investors worldwide.”

Additionally, the FBI has announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to her arrest.

Ignatova, who the FBI says may have had plastic surgery to alter her appearance, disappeared in 2017 after tricking and scamming investors from around the world.

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