Where is Ruja Ignatova, the self-styled cryptoqueen, hiding?

This is a depressing book. It’s a reminder of everything that is sick, broken and generally maledicted about the human condition. It’s also a book based on a podcast, which brings difficulties of its own. To cut a very long story short, The Missing Cryptoqueen tells the true story of a Bulgarian crook named Ruja Ignatova, the self-styled cryptoqueen of the book’s title. In 2014, she set up a pyramid scheme-cum-multi-level-marketing scam based on a fake cryptocurrency called OneCoin. In 2017, having swindled people out of billions of pounds, dollars, euros and just about every other currency on the planet, and with the authorities closing in, Ignatova suddenly went missing.

How far will house prices fall?

‘Forecasting is a mug’s game’ is a truism attributed to everyone from fantasy author Douglas Adams to former Bank of England governor Mervyn King. It reminds us that commentators should never be smug when they call the near future right, or quick to crow at others who turned out to be wrong. I may have been a step or two ahead of the pack this season on inflation and recession risks and I’ve always said crypto, which we’ll come to in a moment, was the road to perdition. But I confess my record on property trends is frankly lamentable. Way back in the ‘negative equity’ era of the mid-1990s, I

When did footballers’ wives become ‘WAGs’?

Wagtime Footballers’ wives Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney are locked in a libel trial dubbed ‘Wagatha Christie’. The term WAGs, as it happens, was first unleashed on the public 20 years ago this week while the England football team and their families were spending a five-day bonding session in Dubai, prior to the 23 players flying out to South Korea for the 2002 World Cup. The term WAGs, reported the Sunday Telegraph, had been used for ‘wives and girlfriends’ by staff at Jumeirah Beach Club, where they were staying and enjoying the facilities, which included two swimming pools with underwater music and belly-dancing workshops. The bonding session seems to have

Who can put the toothpaste of inflation back in its tube?

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s food price index rose 13 per cent last month to stand a third higher than a year ago. Within the index, cereals rose by 17 per cent – driven by interrupted Ukrainian and Russian wheat supplies – and vegetable oils by 23 per cent, Ukraine being the world’s biggest sunflower farmer. In the UK, wholesale milk is up 20 per cent, as farmers face rising fuel and feed costs. Supermarkets squeeze suppliers to suppress retail prices: but soon, around the same time as our next quarterly gas bills, we’ll feel the full impact at the checkout. And then what? We may be on the

What Bitcoin’s crypto critics get wrong

What’s the truth about Bitcoin? Critics couldn’t be clearer: it’s a fad that can’t decide whether it’s a currency or a speculative investment. ‘You’re betting, essentially, on being the last person holding the bomb before it goes off,’ wrote Sam Leith on Coffee House. Many others agree. But Bitcoin’s critics are wrong: there’s nothing faddish about it. Bitcoin is a monetary revolution and is here to stay. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Bitcoin has attracted its sceptics. Understanding what it’s about isn’t easy. In short, Bitcoin is a monetary network, an incorruptible ledger, with the money supply fixed by code (there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoin). It allows

The Bitcoin delusion

Cast your mind back a few years to last week – when there was much laughing and wailing at the collapse of Squid coin, a meme cryptocurrency launched to capitalise on the popular Netflix show. It had gone to market, had rocketed 23 million per cent in value to $28,000-odd a unit… and then plummeted to zero on Monday morning after the creators cashed out for real-world money. Yet like the battle-hardened protagonist of the show, amazingly, the currency is down but not out. Yesterday it was reported to have been the top gainer in the global crypto market, having rocketed more than 800 per cent in 24 hours to…

The heist: nobody is safe from Russia’s digital pirates

In April, the Harris network of London schools was held to ransom by hackers. ‘The first thing I did was panic,’ said Sir Dan Moynihan, the chief executive. It wasn’t simply that their computers didn’t work; many of the 50 schools couldn’t function. Some couldn’t open because their internet-controlled doors were jammed shut. A demand for £3 million arrived. Moynihan pointed out this was a ‘completely insane’ amount for an educational charity to pay — but his pleas through an intermediary were ignored. The hackers insisted that unless Harris paid up, the schools would continue to be locked out of their networks, and sensitive data would be leaked online too.

Suddenly used cars are hot property

Companies should willingly pay tax wherever they generate profits — this column has long argued — because it’s fair they should contribute to the cost of the public services on which all business ultimately relies, and because the reputation of capitalism as a whole is tainted when corporate tax bills are reduced to absurdly low levels by the use of offshore domiciles and spurious royalty payments that most governments lack the willpower to challenge. So I welcome at least one half of the G7 finance ministers’ agreement last weekend on a new global corporate tax regime. The half I’m ready to praise is the proposal that all countries should have

Comedy gold: the economics of internet irony

If you’re looking for proof we live in a computer simulation, consider the farcical story of dogecoin. Named after an internet meme about a talking dog, the joke currency was created as a parody of bitcoin. Dogecoin has no practical uses, yet online investors have ploughed billions into it. ‘We thought it would just make the viral rounds on social media,’ said founder Jackson Palmer. Last week the valuation passed $68 billion — more than Kraft Heinz and Ford. Palmer is now worth several hundred million dollars. Not bad for a Twitter gag. Although it’s seven years old, dogecoin wasn’t a big deal until a few months ago, when supportive

The problem with investing in cryptocurrency

‘This time next year Rodney, we will be millionaires.’ If Only Fools and Horses was still being made I imagine the scriptwriters would have got Del Boy disastrously deep into cryptocurrencies. Dodgy, Get Rich Quick schemes, skirting around the law always were his forte. And that is how I view cryptocurrencies.  The bulls will cry, Louise you are wrong! The price of Bitcoin has doubled since the start of the year and up over 500 per cent in a year. The value of rival cryptocurrency Etherium has risen more than 1,500 per cent in the last twelve months. But cashing in depends on buying and selling at the right time

The true cost of make-believe money

I like Bill Maher. He’s a rare practising left-wing comic who’s actually funny. But last week, his routine on cryptocurrency hit eerie harmonics. ‘I fully understand that our financial system isn’t perfect, but at least it’s real,’ he began. By contrast, crypto is ‘just Easter bunny cartoon cash. I’ve read articles about it. I’ve had it explained to me. I still don’t get it, and neither do you’. Bitcoin is ‘made up out of thin air’ and is comparable with ‘Monopoly money’. As for conventional legal tender: ‘We knew money had to originate from and be generated by something real, somewhere. Cryptocurrency says, “No, it doesn’t” … Or as another analyst put

It’s almost touching that the NFT world sees itself as radical

Some things are explained so many times that they become unexplainable: we can only relate to them as something complicated that needs to be explained. The global financial crisis was like this. Crypto-currencies were like this too. The newest thing that exists to be explained is the world of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. NFTs are collectible digital objects. They are created with a technology called the blockchain, which unalterably and uniquely records their provenance. This means that if I mint an NFT of an image — a cartoon of Donald Trump, say, sitting naked astride the Capitol — I can prove definitive ownership of the image, no matter how many

Are cryptocurrency transactions the future?

To most of us, cryptocurrencies remain an esoteric world, beloved by nerds and incomprehensible to the rest of us. Does Visa’s announcement this week that it will now process payments directly in a cryptocurrency called USDCoin change that, and hasten us to a day when we will all have cryptocurrency accounts which we use to do our day-to-day shopping? You don’t need to understand the mathematics of cryptocurrencies and blockchain to work out that the prospect of shopping with crypto is rather concerning for two reasons. Firstly, cryptocurrencies are an unregulated Wild West. While the pound in your pocket is backed by the Bank of England and the pound in