Nov 04, · When you buy $ worth of Bitcoin, they give you and extra $10 worth for free. As a disclaimer, this is my affiliate account, and I would also get $10 in free Bitcoin if you joined through my link. Suggested Bitcoin Training Courses. If you’re trying to learn more about Bitcoin, feel free to check out these courses and training products. Amway, Bitcoin or Gator? You have to stay in a cabin for 8 hours with nowhere else to go. You have 3 possible companions, an Amway-drone, an evangelistic Bitcoiner and a Gator. Bitcoin vs MLM or both? Here's the lowdown on why I no longer promote my Amway Business. If you want to get started on Bitcoin, grab your wallet and start bu.
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At first she was told it was something she didn't need to know, but when she persisted she finally got the truth in a voicemail in April And plus, as an application, it doesn't need a server behind it. So it's our blockchain technology, a SQL server with a database. But by this stage, thanks to Curry and Bjercke, she knew that a standard SQL server database was no basis for a genuine cryptocurrency. The manager of the database could go in and change it at will.
The inescapable conclusion was that those rising numbers on the OneCoin website were meaningless - they were just numbers typed into a computer by a OneCoin employee.
Far from putting an end to their financial worries, she and her friends and family had thrown a quarter of a million euros away. Dr Ruja was still travelling the world to sell her vision - hopping from Macau to Dubai to Singapore, filling out arenas, pulling in new investors.
OneCoin was still growing fast, and Dr Ruja was starting to spend her new fortune: buying multi-million-dollar properties in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, and the Black Sea resort of Sozopol. In her downtime she would throw parties on her luxurious yacht The Davina. At one, in July , the American pop star Bebe Rexha performed a private set.
Despite the successful facade, trouble was brewing. The opening of a long-promised exchange that would allow OneCoin to be turned into cash kept being delayed - and investors were growing more and more concerned. Nobody knew why she wasn't there," recalls one delegate. Frantic calls and messages went unanswered. The head office in Sofia, where she was such an imposing presence, didn't know anything either. Dr Ruja had vanished. Some feared she'd been killed or kidnapped by the banks, who - they'd been told - had most to fear from the cryptocurrency revolution.
In fact, she had gone underground. FBI records presented in court documents earlier this year indicate that on 25 October , just two weeks after her Lisbon no-show, she boarded a Ryanair flight from Sofia to Athens. And then went completely off radar. That was the last time anyone saw or heard from Dr Ruja. Igor Alberts is wearing black-and-gold everything. Black-and-gold shoes, black-and-gold pleated suit, black-and-gold shirt, black-and-gold sunglasses, and he has a thick black-and-gold ring on.
And every item of clothing is Dolce and Gabbana. His wife, Andreea Cimbala, nods along, adding that if he wakes up and puts on pink underwear, he sticks to pink as he chooses his shirt, trousers and jacket. They live in an enormous house in an affluent neighbourhood on the outskirts of Amsterdam. At the gated entrance to their mansion is a 10ft-high wrought iron gate with their names and the slogan "What dreams may come". A Maserati and Aston Martin are parked outside.
Alberts was brought up in a poor neighbourhood. Then he got into network marketing, or multi-level marketing MLM as it is often known, and started making money. Lots of money. I sell a box to my friends, Georgia and Phil, and make a small cut. But then I recruit Georgia and Phil to start selling too, and I make a cut on their sales as well. They are now in what's called my downline. Phil and Georgia both recruit two people, and then all four of them recruit two more, and so on.
This mushrooms very rapidly - 25 rounds of recruitment later and everyone in the UK would be selling vitamins. And I, at the top, would be making a cut on all the sales.
MLM is not illegal. Big companies like Amway and Herbalife use these techniques. But it is controversial, because usually only a small number of people make all the money. It's also notorious for exaggerated promises of high earnings and tough sales targets.
When there is nothing of value to sell, though, and all the money is made by recruiting other people, it is illegal and goes by another name: a pyramid scheme.
In May , already a very successful MLM seller, Igor Alberts was invited to a OneCoin event in Dubai, where he met lots of people, all apparently making fortunes with this new currency. Dr Ruja herself made a powerful impression too, with her "princess's dresses" and her vision of a financial revolution.
Igor returned with a new mission - and gave new instructions to all the salespeople in his downline: stop whatever you're doing, and start selling OneCoin. Dr Ruja's genius was to recognise that established MLM sellers with huge downlines were the perfect vehicle to market her fake coin - a plan the FBI says she privately referred to as "the bitch of Wall Street, meets MLM".
This was the secret of OneCoin's success. It wasn't just a fake cryptocurrency, it was an old-fashioned pyramid scheme, with the fake coin as its "product". No wonder it spread like wildfire. But they used some of this cash to buy more OneCoin. They, like almost everyone else involved, were convinced they were earning a fortune. It's easy as that. The nature of MLM networks - where people often recruit others who are close to them - creates a blurred sense of responsibility.
Blame is not easy to apportion. And if sellers have invested their own money, they are victims too. He didn't get it, and in December he quit. I ask if he felt guilty, for having sold so many people a coin that didn't exist, and for having made so much money in the process.
Not guilt," he replies. I had no clue that it could be false. I didn't even know what is a blockchain… What doubt can I have? By contrast, Jen McAdam says she bears a heavy burden of guilt. She feels guilty towards those who she introduced to OneCoin, she says, but also towards her late father, a miner, who worked hard all his life in horrible conditions, and left her the money that she then gave away.
It's hard to know how much money has been put into OneCoin. There's a famous saying in journalism, "Follow the money. The problem, he explains, is that following the money isn't as easy as it sounds, because criminals structure their companies and bank accounts in such a way that their assets seem to disappear.
But when it comes to someone trying to find them - whether that's a journalist or a police officer - they are invisible. It's no surprise, then, that OneCoin's corporate structure is incredibly complicated. Here's an example: Ruja bought a very large property in central Sofia. Technically it was owned by a company called One Property. One Property was owned by another company called Risk Ltd.
Risk Ltd was owned by Ruja, but was then transferred to some unnamed Panamanians, but it was still managed by another company called Peragon. And Peragon was owned by another company called Artefix, which was owned by Ruja's mother, Veska. And then in , the ownership of Artefix was sold to an unknown man in his 20s. For several months, a French journalist called Maxime Grimbert tried to unpick OneCoin's corporate workings, collecting as many company names and bank account details as he could.
I show his results to Bullough, who immediately notices how many British companies there are. He takes the first one on the list and looks it up on the Companies House website.
Everything is meant to be transparent - the website contains the details of every company in the UK. It's thought to be a key anti-corruption tool. They have filed no financial information at all. The UK began to insist recently that companies must enter the name of the person with "significant control" - the real owner. That's illegal… That is an anonymous shell company, as anonymous as anything that you can buy anywhere in the Seychelles or Nevis or the Marshall Islands or Vanuatu.
So much for following the money. In an interconnected global economy, assets can simply vanish, and you end up chasing shadows. When you're dealing with a scam worth billions of euros, it's not unusual for shadowy groups to get involved. Several of the people Georgia and I interviewed spoke darkly about mysterious people and connections they didn't want to name. He tells me he's received death threats as a result of speaking out. I would have just turned my back and walked away," he says.
When I ask him who might be behind the threats, he won't elaborate. It starts to get very very very scary, very very very fast. People involved at the early stages have told him it was never supposed to be a billion-dollar scam. She tried to close it down, he says, but the dark forces wouldn't let her. Igor Alberts, the MLM seller, also talks about the involvement of "very influential people".
When I ask for more details, he replies: "No, I cannot tell that because I don't want to take that risk with our lives. It's not clear who Bjorn and Igor are talking about, or whether they are even talking about the same people, but the US Department of Justice claims to have evidence of a link between Dr Ruja's brother, Konstantin Ignatov - who took over the running of OneCoin when Ruja disappeared - and "significant players in Eastern European organised crime".
Just as he was boarding his flight home, he was pounced on by FBI agents, arrested ,and charged with fraud in connection with OneCoin. Around the same time, the US authorities charged Dr Ruja in absentia for wire fraud, security fraud and money laundering.
Amazingly, even after this, OneCoin continued to function - and people continued to invest in it. When Georgia and I visited Sofia a month later, Dr Ruja's personal mansion appeared to be locked up and empty, but the OneCoin office gave every appearance of being a busy workplace.
Investors often told us that what drew them in initially was the fear that they would miss out on the next big thing. They'd read, with envy, the stories of people striking gold with Bitcoin and thought OneCoin was a second chance. Many were struck by the personality and persuasiveness of the "visionary" Dr Ruja.
Investors might not have understood the technology, but they could see her talking to huge audiences, or at the Economist conference.
They were shown photographs of her numerous degrees, and copies of Forbes magazine with her portrait on the front cover. The degrees are genuine. The Forbes cover isn't: it was actually an inside cover - a paid-for advertisement - from Forbes Bulgaria, but once the real cover was ripped off, it looked impressive.
But it seems it's not just the promise of riches that keeps people believing. She was entered into a Whatsapp group, with its own "leader" who disseminated information from the headquarters in Sofia. And McAdam's leader prepared her carefully for conversations with OneCoin sceptics. Even Google - 'Don't listen to Google! Prof Eileen Barker of the London School of Economics, who has spent years studying groups like the Moonies and Scientologists, says there are similarities between OneCoin and messianic millennium cults, where people believe they are part of something big that is going to change the world - and no matter what the evidence, once they've signed up, it's very hard for them to admit they are wrong.
You think, 'Wait a bit longer. Money might push people to invest in the first place, but the sense of belonging, of doing something, of achieving something, is why they stay, Barker says. In an ideal world, regulators would take action to protect consumers from scams like OneCoin. But the authorities all over the world have been slow to react, partly because the whole area of cryptocurrencies is relatively new.
Less than a year later, the warning was removed from the website. Game over. The fact that OneCoin was operating internationally also created difficulties for the authorities. Such explanations don't offer much comfort to those affected. She now runs Whatsapp support groups for OneCoin investors who realise they have been swindled.
Where's the help? More folk are going to promote this. It's a green light for the OneCoin scammers to continue and extort more money from innocent people in the UK and nothing has been done about it. They don't care! The City of London Police told the BBC: "There was insufficient evidence to support criminal proceedings against individuals based in the UK, though the force has never specified that there had been no concerns surrounding OneCoin.
The force has provided assistance to foreign law enforcement partners in respect of their investigations concerning OneCoin personnel and will continue to do this. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud in relation to OneCoin or you suspect someone of actively marketing OneCoin, please come forward and report it to Action Fraud online.
Until this week, however, the OneCoin head office remained open for business - and people were continuing to promote the currency. Today doors are locked. No lights visible through the windows. In the Ntangamo region of Uganda, not far from Rwandan border, most people make their living growing bananas, or sometimes cassava, sweet potato, beans or groundnut. He already had , shillings in savings, and to raise the rest he returned from the capital, Kampala, to his family home, took three goats raised by his younger brothers, and sold them.
Daniel is one of thousands of Ugandans who've bought into Dr Ruja's fake cryptocurrency - and the OneCoin financial documents leaked to the BBC reveal that as time went on, investors like him became increasingly important to OneCoin. In Europe, less money was invested in the first six months of compared to the same period in But in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, it was the other way round.
As the money started drying up in Europe, promoters turned more and more to countries like Uganda. Daniel took me and Georgia to meet Prudence, who first introduced him to OneCoin. They are still friends, even though both now realise it's a scam. Prudence is a nurse in a Kampala slum, who thought she could make more money selling OneCoin and set about recruiting new investors.
A senior promoter gave her a nice car to impress customers, and instructed her to visit farmers when their crops were being harvested and they had money in their pocket.
People in villages trust people from the city, Prudence tells us. To buy the packages some sold their cattle, their land and even their houses - with disastrous consequences. Some are running because they got loans from a bank. Some are hiding. Some are divorced. If anyone asks Prudence when the investment is going to deliver the promised riches, she tells them to wait. She can't bring herself to tell them the truth. I don't want those people I introduced into OneCoin to see me moving around.
They can easily kill me. They thought I ate their money. But though she has stopped recruiting, many others haven't, and there are still plenty of interested buyers, she says. One of the main OneCoin offices in Kampala is attached to a church. There are videos of the minister, known as Bishop Fred, leading the congregation in call and response.
Bishop Fred, we learned, is now one of the country's top promoters of OneCoin, though he says it's no longer promoted during church services. As in other countries, OneCoin has spread here through networks of friends and families. Together with Daniel, Georgia and I travel south to meet his mother. She lives in a concrete house with a tin roof - five small rooms, a small television and a cooking area.
A towel covers the front door, and a few metres away is her land, where she grows her own food and sells anything left over at the local market.
But when Daniel found out about OneCoin, it suddenly seemed like a much better alternative. His mother had doubts, but he persuaded her to put the money into OneCoin instead. She had no computer or smartphone, to do her own research. She doesn't speak English either, so I'm shocked to discover, as we sit and talk, that Daniel has never actually told his mother that the money is lost. They keep postponing this. That I don't know what they're thinking. Share referral links to your favorite products, and receive credit for your resulting customer sales.
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