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MOT: Finns set to lose millions in OneCoin scam

Finnish people were one of the biggest per capita investors in the virtual currency company.

Kaksi kuvaa: OneCoinin pääkonttori ja Kari Wahlroos
Former OneCoin network marketer Kari Wahlroos told MOT the virtual currency company received "astronomical sums" of money. Image: Nadezhda Chipeva ja Janne Järvinen

Tens of thousands of Finnish investors are caught up in the OneCoin virtual currency scam, according to confidential documents seen by Yle's investigative journalism unit MOT.

The documents reveal that Finnish people were, per capita, one of the most eager investors in the cryptocurrency -- with nearly 25,000 Finns investing at least 40 million euros in OneCoin over the first two years of its operations between 2014 and 2016. This was despite warnings at the time from Finnish experts that the virtual currency was as good as "monopoly money".

The total amount invested by Finns is likely to be much higher than this, as OneCoin continued to grow in Finland after 2016.

The controversial company hit global headlines in 2017 when its founder, "cryptoqueen" Dr Ruja Ignatova, disappeared without trace amid growing concern among investors and analysts that the company was operating a Ponzi pyramid scheme.

Scared into silence

MOT sought interviews with dozens of Finnish people who have invested in OneCoin, including ordinary workers, small entrepreneurs and pensioners.

However, none of the investors were willing to talk about OneCoin or the investment scheme publicly.

One reason for this is fear, as OneCoin has forbidden investors to talk to the media under the threat of losing their virtual currency if they comment on the company's behaviour in public.

However, based on the documents that MOT has received and further investigations by the BBC, OneCoin may eventually be revealed to be one of the biggest scams in history.

"I stopped caring"

MOT did however manage to speak to Kari Wahlroos, a network marketer formerly associated with OneCoin, who arrived at the interview in a Ferrari estimated to cost 600,000 euros.

According to Wahlroos, he worked for a company called OneLife which sold training packages and recruited new members to the network.

His job was to train network leaders and teach network marketing, and Wahlroos told MOT that initially it seemed like everything was too good to be true.

"Then I stopped caring and just said, I'm here for that purpose, to take this network forward. I visited over 80 countries and 1.3 million people attended the events."

According to the internal OneCoin documents obtained by MOT, Wahlroos was promised one percent of total sales in Europe and the former Soviet Union each month. With an estimated annual turnover of billions of dollars, this meant Wahlroos had an annual income of millions of euros until he left OneCoin in 2017.

Devilishly cunning scam

Non-fiction writer and IT expert Petteri Järvinen was one of the first critics of OneCoin and has continued to warn about the dangers of investing with the company for the past five years.

In Järvinen's opinion, there is no doubt that OneCoin is a scam, but he told MOT that he understands why so many joined the virtual currency.

"OneCoin is devilishly clever," Järvinen said. "OneCoin was made for network marketing. People recruited new members, received bonuses, and channeled money to the original cheaters at headquarters. In this way, every victim who participated in this network became, in a way, a criminal offender."

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