Jan Marsalek, the former chief operating officer of Wirecard, has disappeared since the technology company was damaged by what accountants described as “complicated and sophisticated fraud”.
After becoming a lover of the fintech scene, the payment provider filed for bankruptcy in June after being forced to admit that 1.9 billion euros ($ 2.1 billion) missing from his account might not exist.
Former chief executive and founder of Wirecard Markus Braun surrendered to the police, but Marsalek remained at large.
– Novichok’s recipe – Marsalek passed on confidential information from the Austrian secret service and the interior ministry to the right-wing Freedom Party (FPOe), Die Presse said.
The exchange took place through an intermediary identified as Florian S., who was reportedly close to the FPOe.
The information allegedly triggered FPOe suspicion of its coalition partners at the time, which culminated in a controversial police raid on the intelligence service in 2018.
Marsalek also exhibited access to classified information in the UK, according to a report in the Financial Times.
In an effort to impress business partners, he is said to have shown them documents containing prescriptions for the nerve agent Novichok, which was used to poison the former Russian-born double agent. Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018.
According to the FT, Marsalek boasted about his relationship with the secret service in an effort to impress members of the London financial services sector – perhaps part of an effort to identify speculators betting against Wirecard stock prices.
Sources interviewed by the FT said Marsalek had links with individuals or networks linked to Russia’s military intelligence directorate, GRU, which was blamed by Britain for the poison attack.
Also in 2018, Marsalek is said to have launched a plan in his luxury home in Munich to recruit 15,000 Libyan militia members – in a country under growing influence from Russia and the GRU.
The project appears to have humanitarian reasons, but its true purpose remains unclear, according to a source quoted by the FT.
– Fake immigration records – Founded in 1999, the early Bavarian company Wirecard rose from a company that funneled cash to pornographic sites and gambling to respected electronic payment providers that set aside traditional Commerzbank lenders from the DAX 30 index.
Praised as a champion in the developing financial technology arena, he boasts a market valuation of more than 23 billion euros at the time – surpassing even giants German bank.
The Wirecard problem began in January 2019 with a series of articles in the Financial Times accusing accounting irregularities in its Asian division, led by Marsalek.
But at the time, FT journalists themselves were being investigated over reports as financial technology companies were able to repeatedly fend off claims.
Since the fraud was revealed in June, the German financial supervisor Bafin has been under scrutiny for failing to prevent a scandal, while the German shareholder association SdK has launched legal action against the accounting firm EY.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz called the death of Wirecard as an “unparalleled scandal”, saying it underscores the need for greater oversight of the financial company.
An international arrest warrant has been issued for Marsalek, with his whereabouts unknown.
The trail briefly leads to the Philippines, whose authorities say immigration records show he arrived in the islands on June 23 – the day after he was fired – before leaving for China on June 24.
But CCTV recordings, airline manifests and other records do not show traces of him being in the country on that date.
Authorities have since accused immigration employees of falsifying records about the Marsalek movement.