A conspiracy, larger than life characters, pyramid schemes, plastic surgery: if you want a podcast that has all the ingredients of a mystery novel and combines with some decent journalism, look no further than The Missing Cryptoqueen. The podcast hasn’t gathered as much attention as it should, so here’s a wholehearted recommendation.
The podcast starts off as an investigation in whatever happened to Dr. Ruja Ignatova, the savvy business woman with an impressive CV who started OneCoin, a cryptocurrency that would change the world and become the biggest of all. Unfortunately for those who did invest their precious real money, the business turned out to be a pyramid scheme that’s still going to this very day. Some people got very rich of it, others lost a lot of money.
What makes the podcast interesting is the fact that it doesn’t take long for the OneCoin company to fight back against the allegations the podcast makes. Despite FBI investigations and other red flags, you can still buy OneCoin packages. Even though anyone involved with OneCoin should really be questioning their own motives and morality by now, you can still get screwed over to this very day.
As of writing this article, we’re six episodes in and the series proves a great way to explain what a cryptocurrency is and isn’t. This might seem like a boring topic, but by episode 5 you’ve met some fascinating characters. One example of this is an interview with a Dutch larger-than-life guy in Amsterdam who made millions of dollars in various multi-level-marketing schemes (including OneCoin).
The episodes before that, the reporters end up at a beauty pageant in Eastern Europe. Featuring minor celebrities and drunk rowdy guests, it quickly turns into a threatening scene for the reporters. Later, they discover that Dr. Ruja Ignatova might have changed her identity by having plastic surgery. James Bond villain, much? And on top of that, she might have been at that same beauty contest…
“Much of the reason to stick around is the excellent reporting by host Jamie Bartlett and producer Georgia Catt.“
Listening to a lot of podcasts, from true crime to serious reporting, this BBC podcast is anything but dry and a truly fresh investigation that would have been great for a show like Reply All. The juicy scandals are one reason, but much of the reason to stick around is the excellent reporting by host Jamie Bartlett and producer Georgia Catt. It feels like a personal journey as well as good journalism, in a way I haven’t experienced since the first season of Serial. There’s lots of personal accounts from people who invested in OneCoin and who bought into the concept of a better world with cryptocurrencies.
Villain and victims
It’s anyone’s guess how this all will end. Is Dr. Ignatova an evil villain, or just a small-time scammer that got in way over her head? Or is she the figurehead for the OneCoin, being controlled by mobsters and criminals from all over Europe? Will she turn out to be the central player in this get rich quick scheme? Will the reporters find the missing “Cryptoqueen” from the title? Or is that no longer the point of the podcast? Are the people we’re hearing in the podcast villains or victims?
If you ever wanted to learn more about complex tech culture like cryptocurrency, yet also be fascinated by scammers abusing those concepts, The Missing Cryptoqueen is for you. It’s available on all podcast players and on the BBC website. There are eight planned episodes, with the final two set for release in October 2019.
Photo copyright: BBC 2019.
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