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19/06/2023 | Luxembourg ex-spy official and FBI fugitive vanishes while under house arrest

Joseph Fitsanakis

THE FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR of Luxembourg’s intelligence service, who is wanted by the United States for his role in a $4 billion cryptocurrency scam, reportedly vanished last month while under house arrest in France. Frank Schneider, 53, a citizen of Luxembourg, served as deputy director for operations in Luxembourg’s spy agency, the Service de Renseignement de l’État Luxembourgeois (SREL).

 

In 2008, he left that post to start his own security and consultancy firm, Sandstone. His name came up frequently in the context of a spy scandal that eventually brought down Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker.

In recent years, Schneider had been working for Dr. Ruja Ignatova, 44, a Bulgarian-born businesswoman who was the alleged architect behind the cryptocurrency scam known as OneCoin. In 2014, the Oxford University-educated Ignatova founded OneCoin, a cryptocurrency firm that claimed to operate on an investment model similar to Bitcoin’s. Later, however, investigators discovered that OneCoin operated as a fraudulent scheme, with no actual cryptocurrency backing it. Ignatova was subsequently indicted on multiple charges of money laundering, securities fraud and wire fraud.

However, Ignatova disappeared in 2017, after boarding a Ryanair flight from the Bulgarian capital Sofia to Athens, Greece. Ignatova remains at large and is widely seen as responsible for one of history’s largest cryptocurrency frauds, which is estimated to have defrauded investors of at least $4 billion. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is currently offering a reward of up to $250,000 in return for information leading to Ignatova’s arrest.

On April 29, 2021, French police arrested Schneider, a resident of France, in Audun-le-Tiche, a small town on the French-Luxembourg border and not far from the Belgian and German borders. His arrest took place pursuant to an international warrant, which was later confirmed to have been issued by authorities in New York. It was reported at the time that Schneider’s arrest involved the deployment of members of Brigade de recherche et d’intervention —France’s equivalent of the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams in the United States.

The Luxembourger is accused by governments in several national jurisdictions of having worked as a fixer and troubleshooter for Ignatova, and in doing so enabling her to prolong her fraudulent schemes. Schneider remained at the Nancy-Maxéville prison until November 2021, when he was placed under house arrest in France. At that time, he was fitted with an ankle monitor equipped with Global Positioning System capabilities, which tracked his physical whereabouts in real time.

Throughout that time, French authorities worked with the government of the United States, where Schneider faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison for money laundering and fraud. On February 15 of this year, French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne approved Schneider’s extradition to the United States. The decision was later endorsed by Nancy’s Court of Appeal, following an attempt by Schneider’s legal team to prevent his extradition to the United States.

Last week, however, it was revealed that Schneider had gone missing while under house arrest in France. How he did so remains unknown, thought it was reported that the former intelligence official had managed to disable and subsequently evade his ankle monitoring system. Moreover, the BBC reported that Schneider went missing in May, but the French government did not publicly reveal the information until June 8.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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