Ex-Wirecard board member Jan Marsalek is sought by international arrest warrant.

Ex-Wirecard board member Jan Marsalek is sought by international arrest warrant.

Photo: Wirecard

Munich, Prinzregentenstrasse 61. The physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen lived in the representative domed building built by HRH Prince Alfonso of Bavaria, which – as a travel guide says – is reminiscent of a French castle. After the revolution, the Wittelsbachers registered their own needs in 1919. After the Second World War, the Stuttgart Art Cabinet and a branch of Credit Suisse took up quarters here. A few days ago, Jan Marsalek (40), manager of the financial services provider Wirecard, is said to have resided in the villa or at least received guests.

The property has two gates, one opens towards the Russian consulate general. There is no question that quite a few of the offices are used by Russian intelligence services. Apparently Marsalek, who began managing the operational business of the now deeply fallen Dax group Wirecard at the age of 30, never entered this building. Which in no way excludes that the Austrian – as is often claimed – is in the service of the Russian military secret service GRU and is now hidden somewhere by his second employer.

In Moscow, the “Marsalek case”, which is making waves in the west, is officially hardly worth noting. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskow issued the slogan that “nothing is known about this”; the prosecutor added that there was neither criminal proceedings against the manager in Russia nor a request for extradition to Russia. The media have other topics, only the website newsru.com translated an article from the German “Handelsblatt”.

Even when the board of directors of the finance company from Aschheim near Munich, which was released by Wirecard on June 18 and then fired without notice, was in the background. You could only see him at official appointments such as general meetings. Mostly alongside CEO and Wirecard co-founder Markus Braun, who is also accused of falsifying the balance sheet.

Reports with mostly anonymous sources are all the more bizarre. It is less about the financial genius who has created networks for Wirecard in Singapore, Dubai and Manila that were so pervasive (or so cleverly designed) that EUR 1.9 billion slipped through. If they ever existed. Instead, alleged insiders paint a picture of Marsalek as the top agent. It is all the more problematic that former and active German government members, including the Chancellor, advertised Wirecard when traveling abroad. Even Angela Merkel’s former and long-time secret service supervisor Klaus-Dieter Fritsche had to admit lobby services for the cheat company. Did the CSU man, who was washed with all intelligence waters, find his master in Marsalek?

The fact that financial professionals work as secret agents is not as unusual as you might think. The British MI6 even targeted bankers because they have the best prerequisites for the sniffing job in times of globalization. They are in key social positions, well networked, precise and unscrupulous. The Russian GRU may be pursuing similar recruiting channels. Bellingcat, the disclosure and announcement platform linked to Western services, which Marsalek’s alleged escape route via Tallinn and Minsk traced with all sorts of ramifications and false traces, for example to the Philippines, wants to have evidence that the top manager with various Austrian passports has stayed in Russia conspicuously often .

As of 2015, these side trips became more frequent. Marsalek’s travels, it is said on Bellingcat, showed “an almost monthly pattern of visits”. An example: On September 29, 2016, the manager with a short hairstyle and preference for tailored suits flew from Munich to Moscow at 1.55 a.m., then to Athens at 7.58 a.m. The next day he jetted from Greece to St. Petersburg, where he only stayed an hour and a half before flying back to Greece – this time on the holiday island of Santorini. During this trip, he changed private jets three times. Was it traveling on behalf of Wirecard? There is a lot of need for explanation. In 2017, it is said, he had to extend his stay in Russia by days. Did the GRU leadership officers need time to update their agent thoroughly?

The Marsalek immigration dossier of the Russian domestic secret service FSB allegedly contains 597 pages – “much more than any foreigner file that we came across in more than five years of investigation,” claims Billingcat, where, contrary to his own account, research is by no means independent. If this dossier actually exists and data can be accessed in such a simple way, that would not speak for Marsalek’s use as a top GRU agent. Not even if you take into account that the GRU works sloppy than in Soviet times and the competition with the FSB makes things difficult.

The question is, however, why the agent should boast about his good intelligence contacts with friends and business people himself. For example, Marsalek is said to have known the formula for the deadly neurotoxin Novichok with which the Russian secret service allegedly kills opponents. In 2018, the Wirecard board allegedly offered secret reports from the organization for the ban on chemical weapons, which dealt with the attempted murder of Russian ex-agent Sergei Skripal in Great Britain. A year earlier, Masalek is said to have bragged of having visited the ancient ruined city of Palmyra in Syria, which had been recaptured by the terrorist group “Islamic State”, at the invitation of the Russian military. Finally, in February 2018, the alleged agent, according to the Financial Times, which has been dealing with Wirecard fraud for years, alleged to have recruited a 15,000-strong mercenary militia for Libya that would close the border to the flow of refugees from Africa and Russia Secures investments. It is also claimed that Marsalek owns a factory in Libya that serves as a base for Russian mercenaries. In his home country, where Marsalek belongs to the Austrian-Russian Friendship Society, he allegedly passed on secret material for the protection of the constitution to the right-wing populist FPÖ.

Rumors, guesswork, wrong tracks? If anything can really make you wonder, it is: Jan Marsalek, chief operating officer of a company that offers solutions for global electronic payments, should have been careful to use credit cards as rarely as possible. Because they can be extremely treacherous.