We met Frank Schneider at his home in Joudreville. He was wearing an electronic bracelet and cannot leave his premises until a final decision has been reached on whether or not France will extradite him to the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating alleged fraud with the OneCoin cryptocurrency scheme and has made Frank Schneider's case a priority. The US authorities consider Frank Schneider one of the perpetrators of international fraud in this case. He is prosecuted, amongst other things, for fraud and money laundering.
"Many funds have probably disappeared"
Billions of euros were invested worldwide in OneCoin by many people who thought it would make them rich. But they never got their money back. Large sums have disappeared. Frank Schneider says, that he never realised this while he was working for Ruja Ignatova. But now he says, that "many years have passed and large sums of money have probably disappeared". Frank Schneider admits: "If it really is fraud, it must be clarified, and then it will also be a case of money laundering and I must be held responsible for what I might have done". But he stresses, that it is up to the courts to clarify this and that, first of all, the judiciary must decide whether, legally speaking, there has been any fraud.
Frank Schneider's line of defense is that, at the time, he wasn't aware of any possible illegalities. And that he has only now realised, that his activities from 2015 to 2017 could be considered a criminal offense. However, we asked him why he didn't get suspicious while working for Ruja Ignatova, considering his experience. Frank Schneider replied, that there is no point looking back and wondering what would have happened, if he had acted differently. But he points out that, "yes, there were always indications where one could have said, this is going too far, or this is not going to work".
Schneider explains, that his job was to solve problems and help get OneCoin on the right track. But he adds, that the scheme hadn't worked in general and that this had not only been his fault.
One last contact via text message
Frank Schneider describes himself as the crisis manager for Ruja Ignatova, the extroverted frontwoman of OneCoin. She has been missing since 2017 and has been put on a worldwide list of wanted criminals. According to Schneider, he had been very close to Ruja Ignatova and that she trusted him. He had become her crisis manager over time, even though this wasn't his job initially. He says, that he got in touch with her at the end of 2015 through the former Deputy Finance Minister of Bulgaria.
Frank Schneider says, that he doesn't know whether or not Ruja Ignatova is still alive. He told us, that he last heard from her in October 2017 shortly before she disappeared.
He thinks it is quite likely, that Ruja Ignatova disappeared involuntarily at that time. Because she had never mentioned to him that she would go underground. He stresses that he personally would certainly not have helped "to make people disappear". According to Frank Schneider, that was never not part of his job. He assumes, that Ruja Ignatova probably didn't disappear of her own accord because, as Schneider puts it, "she liked money, but left a large sum behind without ever claiming it".
1.2 billion euros still available?
According to Frank Schneider over a billion euros of the OneCoin funds are still available, mostly in accounts in China, but also in Dubai, Australia and South Korea. "As far as I know there is still a lot of money in those places", Schneider says. The Luxembourg businessman and former secret service employee thinks Ruja Ignatova would not have decided to leave voluntarily without clarifying the money issue. "She was a bit of a diva and I can't see her sitting in the jungle somewhere with a designer bag".
Frank Schneider took Pitt Arens on board
Frank Schneider is not the only Luxembourger who worked for OneCoin. The Luxembourg banker Pitt Arens was CEO of OneCoin for eleven months and was paid 62,500 euros a month. Frank Schneider says Ruja Ignatova wanted a banker as a OneCoin director to "put the right procedures in place to bring the company to a level where it could function as a PSF" (Professional in the Financial Sector). Schneider says he asked Pitt Arens to join and he accepted, although, Schneider adds, later Arens probably thought he had made a bad decision.
According to research by 100.7, the US justice authorities are also investigating further people with links to Luxembourg:
- Amer Abdulazis (Phoenix Luxembourg Fund SCA SICAV-RAIF)
- Karl Horsburgh
- Anton Zherebtsov and Anatoly Gorlov (Global Opportunties GP Sàrl a Global Opportunities Fund S.C.A., SICAV-RAIF)
- Christopher Hamilton and Robert MacDonald (Viola (Lux) S.à r.l.)
Frank Schneider also confirmed to us that the expert Karl Horsburgh was a close acquaintance and that they know each other well. Schneider says Karl Horsburgh was his first boss after university. But Karl Horsburgh and Ruja Ignatova did not get on with each other - "fortunately" - says Schneider, "so that was over after two weeks". Frank Schneider thinks that Karl Horsburgh "has absolutely nothing to do with it".
The Phoenix Fund had been "Ruja Ignatova's money" and had also been used to pay Sandstone, Frank Schneider told us. But according to him, he had no knowledge of the company Global Opportunities GP Sàrl.
But when we told him it was founded in 2017 by Anton Zherebtsov and Anatoly Gorlov, whose address was RavenR Limited in London, Frank Schneider said: "There you are! RavenR was 100 percent Ruja Ignatova. The money that flowed into RavenR was her money and it came from OneCoin".
Frank Schneider also admits that he received money from the Fenero Fund from Marc Scott, who is also accused of money laundering in the US. A verdict in this case is expected in August. Part of that money went into the savings bank account of Schneider's company Sandstone.
"The Sandstone Board knows"
Schneider says everyone at his company, Sandstone, knew perfectly well about the work for Ruja Ignatova and the entire Sandstone team was involved. But it was up to the justice authorities to clarify who was responsible for what.
But Frank Schneider denies that he or Sandstone had obtained secret information about an ongoing Europol investigation into OneCoin. He says Ruja Ignatova had passed this information on to him. He says he could possibly prove this: "I never went to any organizations to get classified material, I would not have done that".
"Luxembourg justice authorities most certainly responsible"
Frank Schneider says he wants to testify about the whole OneCoin affair in court. But not in the US, where the 53-year-old risks up to 40 years in prison, but in Luxembourg, where he could face up to five years in prison.
Schneider admits that he prefers to be prosecuted in Luxembourg rather than in the USA. "That's normal", he says. A conviction in the US would be "like a death sentence".
He continues: "And I really don't think it can be a case where people in Luxembourg will say, let's give him what he deserves - they simply cannot do that! (editorial note: Frank Schneider was involved in several scandals at Luxembourg's Secret Service from 2004-2009 which, after they went public in 2012, finally led to new elections in Luxembourg. Some aspects are out of date, a second instance judgment is still pending).
Up to now, the Luxembourg judiciary has not launched an investigation into OneCoin and has so far shown no interest in opening one.
Radio 100,7 met Frank Schneider together with filmmaker Johan von Mirbach, who is working on a documentary about Ruja Ignatova for WDR/arte.