The Missing Cryptoqueen: The Billion Dollar Cryptocurrency Con and the Woman Who Got Away with It
A counterfeiting tale for the 21st century.
This is the book of the podcast of the same name. It centres around a banker who decided to start a cryptocurrency, One Coin, that she pitched as being able to transform the finances of those feeling left behind. In actual fact she never actually built the currency at all, just the marketing and trading infrastructure around it that allowed people to feel that their investments had worth. In the process she became entangled with various mafias and ended up on the run – so successfully that one has to consider that she's dead.
There's a sub-text to this story that the book doesn't really explore: what's the difference between a valuable and a worthless currency? It seems simply to be a matter of belief, that a currency you acquire today will be exchangeable for roughly the same services now or in a month's time. There's nothing intrinsic about this, and so cryptocurrencies aren't a flawed idea because they're not backed by a central bank, or by gold, or whatever: they're flawed because this belief can't be sustained.
So why did people invest? A lot of the hype was targeted specifically at people who were already financially insecure, and believed that. by getting in on the ground floor of the new currency, they'd experience the same dizzying ride as those who first bought Bitcoin – or at least, those who got out at the right time. Buying in on the basis of being able to get out, in other words, so basically gambling – but with a very 21st century mix of "them" not wanting "you" to know about this. Inequality, conspiracy, and magical thinking are all needed to make these scams succeed.
5/5. Finished 15 October 2022.
(Originally published on Goodreads.)