Fugitive Marsalek of bust fintech Wirecard hiding in Russia

Fugitive Marsalek of bust fintech Wirecard hiding in Russia
The Munich Police Department has issued "wanted" notices asking for information regarding the whereabouts of Jan Marsalek, COO of the bust fintech Wirecard. / Munich Police Department, Wiki Commons
By bne IntelliNews March 6, 2024

Jan Marsalek, the former fugitive COO of the bust German payment provider Wirecard, has long collaborated with Russian intelligence services and continues to hide in Russia using three fake passports, according to an investigation by The Insider and Der Spiegel

As followed by bne IntelliNews, in June 2020 Wirecard announced that €1.9bn in cash was missing. Munich prosecutors suspect that hundreds of millions of euros were siphoned off in the run-up to the insolvency. 

Marsalek's ties to the Russian intelligence services became known at the time of the company's collapse in 2020. The collapse of the "Europe's most expensive fintech" service Wirecard was the first-ever bankruptcy of a blue chip name on DAX index. 

Before going bust, Wirecard was slated for a takeover by Deutsche Bank and wanted to become a cryptocurrency platform for Telegram, but it turned out to be based on fake reporting and simulated rapid growth. 

At the time Marsalek reportedly travelled to Russia frequently, picking payment services and banks to take over. In the summer of 2020, Spiegel confirmed that Marsalek had gone into hiding in Russia, and in late 2023, an extensive Wall Street Journal outed him as being a Russian asset for at least 10 years, directly involved in money laundering on behalf of the Russian security services.

The latest investigation by the Insider claims that Marsalek was recruited by Russian intelligence services in 2014 with the help of a Russian model Natalia Zlobina. Zlobina reportedly set him up with Stanislav Petlinsky, the commander of a spy service GRU special forces unit. 

Marsalek's early "services" included laundering $400mn from the Hong Kong accounts of friends of Ramzan Kadyrov, according to The Insider. And in 2017, he bought the Russian PMC RSB-Group, which operated in Libya. With its help, Marsalek was going to control the "southern" flow of refugees to Europe. The scheme of movement of funds, worked out on this deal, could be used for "grey" financing of GRU projects.

At the same time, he had links with former employees of the Austrian Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counter-Terrorism (BVT). In particular, after the investigation into the involvement of Russian security services in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny was released in 2020, he "ran" through the BVT the address of Hristo Grozev - co-author of the investigation.

Now Marsalek is hiding in Russia using three passports, two of them with the alias of real people: priests Konstantin Bayazov from the Lipetsk region and Vitaly Malkin from Vladimir. The third was issued in the name of Alexander Schmidt.

According to the Insider, Marsalek has retained access to some of his funds and continues to work for intelligence in Russia, but, reportedly, the Western intelligence services have been able to monitor and suppress his activities. 

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius mentioned the new investigation, referring to the "missile scandal" (the supply of Taurus missiles to Ukraine) as "part of Russia's disinformation campaign" aimed at undermining European unity. 

Pistorius believes that the wiretap was deliberately published on the day of Navalny's funeral and the release of the investigation into Marsalek's links to Russia.