“Dear Ms. Poussou” – This is how a long letter from the London lawyer Dr. Jonathan Levy to the head of the Financial Crimes Investigations Unit – financial police for short – of the Seychelles. Dear Miss Poussou, please take care of financial transactions that have been carried out on behalf of Ruja Ignatova via her island state in the Indian Ocean.
Levy said in his August 17th letter that he represents people who have invested millions of dollars in OneCoin, Ruja’s alleged cryptocurrency. About $ 500 million recently appeared in bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates (VAR). And Levy wants these millions for his clients.
Dubai accounts against Bitcoin
What does the Seychelles have to do with it? It’s a long story. When Cryptoqueen, who grew up in Schramberg, and her OneCoin colleague and alleged lover Karl Sebastian Greenwood had problems with the authorities in Dubai in 2015 and they blocked their accounts, His Excellency Sheikh Saoud bin Faisal Al Qassimi helped her out of a mess, Levy said.
According to this, Ruja signed over to the sheikh part of her bank balances, companies and real estate in VAR, valued at around one billion dollars. Ignatova had issued a power of attorney for this. In return, Al Qassimi gave Ruja four “hard wallets”, a type of high-security USB stick. 230,000 Bitcoin are stored on these wallets, which was worth 50 million dollars at the time. A good deal for the sheikh back then – but today the bitcoins would be worth ten billion dollars, lawyer Levy estimates.
Power of attorney with forged signatures?
With such a power of attorney, the Sheikh and Mimoun Madani, a real estate agent with a Dutch passport, went to courts and banks in Dubai to prove their property rights to the OneCoin accounts and companies. “Whether Madani and Al Qassimi work for their own account or for Ignatova, who went into hiding, is unknown,” writes Levy on his homepage.
The problem: Lawyer Levy is convinced that the powers of attorney are forgeries. A graphological report by the VAR expert Ahmed Obaid Al Bah also shows that Ruja Ignatova’s “signature was forged”.
However – and now the islands in the Indian Ocean come into play – the notary Bernard Georges has notarized the documents in the Seychelles. Interesting: The document is from January 30, 2018. Only: Ruja Ignatova flew from Sofia to Athens on October 22, 2017 – and has since disappeared without a trace.
The notaries in the Seychelles
But notary Georges writes to Levy that he only certified that the power of attorney existed, not that it was signed by Ignatova and Greenwood in his presence. Greenwood, who has been awaiting trial in a prison there since his arrest in Thailand and extradition to the United States, issued a statement on October 30, 2020 that the alleged legal power of attorney for Madani was falsified and used for illegal purposes, namely to to get his accounts at Mashreq Bank in Dubai.
Levy asks “dear Miss Poussou” to review the notary practices in the Seychelles. Practices in which such documents are simply certified without checking whether they are authentic – “and the parties involved even exist”.
The second notary concerned also writes to Levy that he “never” certified the two signatures. “Neither of the two individuals came to me in the Seychelles for the signatures,” he says. He is very sure that it is a forgery of his seal and his signature.
Authorities are waking up
As the Seychelles News Agency (SNA) reported at the end of August, the authorities there want to investigate the case. The head of the legal department of the “Financial Crime Investigation Unit”, Tania Potter, reported to the agency that they had received “a lot of documents”. Some of them must now be checked for connections to the Seychelles in order to then decide on further steps.
The London lawyer Levy had pointed out that large cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance used the Seychelles as their headquarters. If the island nation is unable to regulate such transactions, “serious problems with money laundering transactions” could arise. Your department receives such requests from time to time, Potter told the SNA. It is unusual that a private person has switched them on: “We usually receive them from Interpol or from other police authorities.”
Then help as best you can. However, the victims of the fraud were not deceived in the Seychelles. “Therefore, it is difficult for us to prosecute the person who committed or helped commit the crime.”
Levy: Seychelles overwhelmed
When asked by the NRWZ, Levy pointed out that such crypto exchanges like Binance or Huobi had deliberately chosen the Seychelles for their business because the authorities there “lack the means and skills to investigate complex crypto transactions”. The authorities tried, but it was problematic that such large stock exchanges had settled in the Seychelles.
A recent report by the SNA shows that Levy’s criticism has been received: On September 8, the news agency reported that the island state’s finance ministry was working on either licensing or banning such trading platforms for cryptocurrencies.
OneCoin scandal makes you think
The reason given is that several international studies on fraud with cryptocurrencies refer to the Seychelles. The most recent event is the case of OneCoin, which involves 230,000 bitcoins that are now worth about ten billion dollars.
The head of the department against money laundering and terrorist financing Randolph Samson told reporters that his country has a responsibility to ensure that companies and individuals are not involved in illegal activities such as money laundering. One will examine whether such business is good for the Seychelles. If it is too risky and gives the island nation a bad reputation, “we will simply ban it,” says Samson.
It remains a mystery whether the Cryptoqueen has already monetized the four “hard wallets” with bitcoins from Sheikh Saoud bin Faisal Al Qassimi, or who currently owns them. Maybe she lives in one of the emirates and enjoys her life. The authorities there have stopped the investigations against them.