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AGE OF THE ASSASSIN

Constantia killings – Bulgaria’s forewarning to SA and a global billion-dollar crypto scam

Constantia killings – Bulgaria’s forewarning to SA and a global billion-dollar crypto scam
From left: Ruja Ignatova is one of the FBI’s top 10 wanted suspects. She allegedly ran a billion-dollar crypto scam that was based in Bulgaria, but operated globally. (Photo: FBI website) | Krasimir Kamenov was one of four people murdered in Constantia, Cape Town, on 25 May.2023. He was wanted in Bulgaria. (Photo: Interpol website, Images sharpened by AI)

One of four people gunned down in Constantia, Cape Town, last week was Krasimir Kamenov, wanted for crimes in Bulgaria. A deeper look at the case reveals Bulgaria warned South Africa that he was here and was a wanted man. Possible links to a crypto suspect sought by the FBI have also emerged.

Forty-nine days before a Bulgarian fugitive was assassinated in Cape Town along with three other people, authorities from that country informed their South African counterparts that he was here – and that they wanted him arrested.

A closer look at matters linked to Krasimir Kamenov’s name reveals a complex web of organised crime stretching around the world – from a $4-billion crypto fraud scheme involving a suspect who may or may not have been killed, to a former policeman’s murder in Bulgaria.

constantia killings

constantia killings

Above and top: Crime scene experts process a multiple murder scene in Constantia, Cape Town, on 25 May 2023 involving Krasimir Kamenov, his wife, Gergana, and a man and woman believed to be their employees. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Kamenov, his wife, Gergana, and a man and woman believed to be their employees were found dead at a home in Cape Town’s luxury suburb of Constantia on Thursday, 25 May. All four, believed to be from Bulgaria, had been shot.

Here for 15 years

On Tuesday, in response to questions from Daily Maverick, the Embassy of Bulgaria in Pretoria said Kamenov had been living in this country since 2008. He had travelled using a passport in his own name.

In response to whether police in South Africa had been told about his presence in the country ahead of his murder, the embassy said: “The South African authorities were informed on 06.04 2023 that Mr Kamenov is wanted in order to be arrested and extradited with regard to an Interpol red notice.”

The Interpol red notice – an international request for authorities to arrest a listed figure – said he was wanted in connection with a murder threat, murder and extortion.

‘Finer aspects’

It was not immediately clear what South African authorities had done about Kamenov between receiving Bulgaria’s request and the time of his murder.

Although Kamenov and his wife have been named in the media, Western Cape police spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut told Daily Maverick on Tuesday that police were yet to officially release the identities of the four murder victims.

“Due to the sensitive nature of serious and violent crimes, and the premature stage of the investigation, this office is not in a position to disclose the finer aspects of the case as yet,” he said.

While the motive for the killings is not yet clear, Kamenov has a deep history linked to allegations of crime.

Double assassination

Kamenov was connected to Angelo Dimov, who, with his wife Nezabravka Peeva, was assassinated on 12 February 2018 in a home they were renting in Bergvliet, about 5km from Constantia. Dimov and Peeva were also from Bulgaria.

Daily Maverick can reveal that an apparent residential address in Bergvliet, listed for Dimov in 2015, matched an address that was listed for Kamenov in 2019, which suggests Kamenov was close to Dimov.

Kamenov’s wife, Gergana, according to a website relating to her work in the beauty sector, was a model who became Miss Bulgaria Universe in 2007. She had lived in South Africa for 12 years. (It was not clear, though, when these details had been published on the website.)

Gems and diamonds

It also showed she had a “certificate of completion” from the Academy of Gemmology in relation to “practical diamond grading”.

At the time of the Dimov and Peeva murders, Dimov had been facing criminal charges relating to a credit card scam in a case that dated back to 2008. There were also suspicions in police circles that he was involved in the illicit drugs and diamond trade.

For his part, at the time of his murder, Kamenov was wanted in Bulgaria for crimes including murder.

A ‘maybe murdered’ key suspect

The publication Novinite reported last week that Kamenov had been accused of being involved in the killing of a former policeman, Lyubomir Ivanov, who was shot in the Bulgarian capital Sofia in March last year.

In a tweet published the day after Kamenov was killed, the Bureau for Investigative Reporting and Data, a partner of the Organized Crime and Corruption Investigation Network, said he was their source relating to a police report about the apparent murder of Ruja Ignatova, a crime suspect from Bulgaria, and that Kamenov “was about to say more to US investigators”.

Ignatova, who is wanted in the US, allegedly headed a global crypto scam that operated under various names, including OneCoin and OneLife.

According to the Bureau for Investigative Reporting and Data, after the ex-policeman Ivanov was assassinated in Sofia last year, documents were seized from his home which contained, among others, claims that Ignatova was murdered in November 2018 on a yacht in the Ionian Sea between Italy, Greece and Albania.

Kamenov, the bureau said, may have had information for investigators about a former ally’s links to Ignatova’s apparent murder. However, the claims about her killing have not been officially confirmed so it is not clear if she really is dead.

FBI’s most wanted

This is where the matter branches out internationally – Ignatova is one of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s top 10 wanted suspects

She was added to the list on 30 June last year.

Whether or not Kamenov had information linked to her – or about a past associate’s ties to her – the Ignatova matter appears to have connections to South Africa.

The alleged scam she headed, OneCoin, based on a Facebook account and YouTube videos, also appeared to be in operation in this country.

According to the FBI, she was wanted “for her alleged leadership of a massive fraud scheme that affected millions of investors worldwide”.

It offered a $100,000 reward for information that would lead to Ignatova’s arrest. The FBI said it was believed she travelled with guards and associates and may have had plastic surgery “or otherwise altered her appearance” (presumably to disguise herself from authorities).

Global billion-dollar crypto fraud

The FBI said: “Beginning in approximately 2014, Ignatova and others are alleged to have defrauded billions of dollars from investors all over the world.  

“Ignatova was the founder of OneCoin Ltd, a Bulgaria-based company that marketed a purported cryptocurrency. In order to execute the scheme, Ignatova allegedly made false statements and representations to individuals in order to solicit investments in OneCoin.”

 

She allegedly got victims, under the impression they were buying OneCoin packages, to transmit investment funds to OneCoin accounts. 

“Throughout the scheme, OneCoin is believed to have defrauded victims out of more than $4-billion,” the FBI said.

“Ignatova served as OneCoin’s top leader through October 2017. On October 25 2017, Ignatova travelled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, and may have travelled elsewhere after that.  She may travel on a German passport to the United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Greece and/or Eastern Europe.”

While Ignatova is still listed as wanted by the FBI, the broader OneCoin case has progressed.

‘Incriminating documents’ set alight

Nearly a month before Kamenov was murdered, on 21 March 2023, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced that another suspect, Irina Dilkinska, of Bulgaria, also faced charges in the OneCoin saga.

Dilkinska was OneCoin’s “purported” head of legal and compliance.

Previously in the case, Mark Scott, also linked to OneCoin and a former equity partner at an international law firm, Locke Lord LLP, was convicted in the US of conspiring to launder money. He had been arrested there in 2018.

According to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, when Dilkinska realised Scott had been detained, she “burned incriminating documents”.

Steroid King also killed in Constantia

Six years before the Kamenov killings in Constantia, another assassination linked to global organised crime played out in the Cape Town suburb.

In this journalist’s book, Clash of the Cartels: Unmasking the global drug kingpins stalking South Africa, a chapter focusing on Bulgaria said that in the case of Angelo Dimov, there were suspicions he had worked with the 28s gang and Brian Wainstein, a steroid smuggler. This suggests Kamenov, through his links to Dimov, may have also moved in those circles.

Wainstein, also known as the Steroid King, had operated in other countries including Ireland and the US. He was assassinated in August 2017 inside his home in Constantia. Several local suspects are expected to go on trial in connection with his murder.

Sources with ties to policing and with an understanding of South Africa’s underworld, speaking more broadly and not referencing the Wainstein case specifically, had previously said that when it came to international organised crime in this country, individuals from countries including Bulgaria had forged ties with local criminals – and vice versa. DM

Caryn Dolley has spent years tracing the footprints of crime/drug kingpins from across the world. In her latest book, Clash of the Cartels, Dolley provides unprecedented insight into how specific drug cartels and syndicates have operated via South Africa, becoming embroiled in deadly violence in the country and bolstering local criminal networks. Available now from the Daily Maverick Shop.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Sam Shu says:

    As said on Tim Cohen’s podcast, the criminal gangs in South Africa are no longer the side show; they are the show. It seems the ANC is thoroughly integrated and part of these gangs. There is no other explanation that ties relations with Russia, Lady A, immunity for putin, eskom, karpower together with the gangs reported in the western cape and KZN. Welcome to SA Mafia Ltd.

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