Two British men accused of stealing $32 million from an alleged associate of “Crypto Queen” and OneCoin swindler Ruja Ignatova are battling extradition to the US, reports Law360.
Christopher Hamilton and Robert McDonalds appeared in court on Friday where their solicitors argued that, due to ongoing UK litigation, their US extradition orders are invalid.
The men’s legal team invoked forum bar rules, which allow judges to block an extradition if the lion’s share of the criminal activity took place in Britain.
Counsel stated that the majority of the crimes and the harm caused by them took place in the UK, and that while it’s “almost impossible to know where most of the harm from the OneCoin fraud occurred” it was almost certainly not in the US.
US-based losses are estimated at somewhere in the region of $50 million — about half the losses experienced in the UK.
Besides laundering money as part of the now-infamous $4 billion OneCoin pyramid scheme, US authorities are suing both men for allegedly taking funds from Gilbert Amenta, an associate of Ignatova. US federal prosecutors describe Amenta as a professional money launderer.
Two Brits among dozens of OneCoin scam beneficiaries
Litigation against Hamilton and McDonalds adds to dozens of civil and criminal lawsuits on behalf of victims of the OneCoin scam.
OneCoin was a colossal Ponzi scheme founded in 2014 by Bulgarian national Ruja Ignatova. According to the BBC, Igantova raised most of OneCoin’s investment by duping Chinese investors. At its height, Ignatova claimed to have raised $4 billion from investors in 175 countries.
Ignatova remains at large. She was last seen flying from Bulgaria to Athens in 2017.
- Authorities in 194 countries name her on criminal Do Not Fly, Interpol, Most Wanted, and Europol lists.
- Indeed, there are countless warrants and bounties for her arrest.
- Reportedly, plastic surgeons have altered her appearance.
- Ignatova is the subject of several true crime genre books, podcasts, and movies.
Ruja Ignatova’s brother sentenced to 90 years
So far, Ignatova has dodged arrest. However, her brother Konstantin was arrested in Los Angeles on March 6, 2019.
In a bid for leniency, he agreed to testify against his sister.
Meanwhile, Konstantin’s testimony has already helped to prove OneCoin’s lawyer Mark Scott guilty of fraud and money laundering. That verdict, released November 21, 2019, described how Scott laundered approximately $400 million of OneCoin’s proceeds.
Scott received more than $50 million in compensation for helping the OneCoin scam. US Marshals have seized Scott’s luxury automobiles, mansions, and a yacht.
Updates from other OneCoin scam promoters
- On March 1, 2022, Scott’s business associate David Pike avoided imprisonment. US authorities had accused Pike of helping Scott to launder OneCoin proceeds. After deliberations, US District Judge Edgardo Ramos ordered Pike to serve two years of probation.
- French police arrested another member of Ignatova’s inner circle, Frank Schneider. Currently, the ex-Luxembourg spy is awaiting extradition to the US. The FBI thanked France for his arrest. The agency will file an extradition request to bring Schneider to the US this week.
- Karl Sebastian Greenwood, a marketing specialist for OneCoin, is currently facing jail time in Manhattan. US authorities indicted Greenwood, dubbed the “public face of OneCoin,” and he is reportedly in plea deal talks.
- In 2020, two OneCoin advocates were found dead in Mexico.
- Jonathan Levy, a legal defender for OneCoin victims, accused OneCoin’s chief prosecutor in Bulgaria of doing nothing to bring restitution to victims.
Five years since its collapse in 2017, the fallout from OneCoin continues. There have been significant arrests and seizures. And while a few perpetrators are behind bars, Ruja Ignatova remains at large and, if alive, could still control private keys to an estimated 230,000 bitcoin — worth billions of dollars.