Jan Marsalek, who was Wirecard’s chief operating officer, is one of the current world’s most wanted men. He is now supposed to be in Russia, in a GRU safehouse west of Moscow, after Bellingcat reported he was present in Minsk two days ago.
Marsalek has been missing since his dismissal from Wirecard in the wake of the discovery of a €1.9 billion black hole which has implicated a number of fraudulent overseas deals. Marsalek told his colleagues that he was going to the Philippines to chase and find the missing billions, in order to prove his innocence.
Later that day he went missing as well. While airline bookings and immigration records showed he had made his way to Manila on the 23 June and left onward to China, an investigation by Philippine authorities found that the trip had been a red herring, and immigration records had been forged on his behalf.
Before then he frequently presented himself as an international man of action, using secret documents to forge links with traders in a years-long operation to identify speculators betting against the Wirecard share price.
Russian immigration records and data kept by Russia’s FSB suggest that Russia’s security service had a long-standing interest in Marsalek, who used a number of different passports – including a third-country diplomatic passport – to visit Russia dozens of times in the last 15 years. At least on one occasion – in 2017 – Russia’s security services are likely to have had a lengthy interaction with Marsalek in Moscow.
Handelsblatt wrote that current political tensions between Belarus and Russia made it “too risky” for the GRU to leave Marsalek in Minsk.
Marsalek has “often styled himself as a secret agent” in private conversations and “must have worked closely with the GRU” during his visits to war-torn Syria and while making investments in Libya, Handelsblatt reported.
Jan Marsalek is now a person of interest to three western intelligence agencies, over serious suspicion of links to Russian intelligence.
Since 2015, it was known that Marsalek pursued several projects in Libya – including investing in the Libya Cement Company, and has engaged with Russian advisors and European officials to discuss plans for ‘humanitarian reconstruction in Libya’.
Marsalek’s adviser in the Libyan initiative was Andrey Chuprygin – a Russian Arab-world expert whom western intelligence services believe is a former GRU senior officer, maintaining close ties with the intelligence community.
Marsalek has also collaborated with the Austrian-Russian Friendship Society. The organization received classified documents from Marsalek apparently obtained from Austria’s interior ministry and security service BVT.
He also passed classified information and provided geopolitical advice to the country’s far-right populist party, the FPÖ. In 2017 Jan Marsalek also reportedly boasted in a private meeting about a trip he had made to the ruins of Palmyra, in Syria, as a guest of the Russian military shortly after its recapture from ISIS.
In 2018, he also disclosed to business partners in London four highly sensitive, classified reports from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the wake of Skripals poisoning in Salisbury. He also claimed to have the full formula of Novichok, the military-grade poison that was used by GRU in the Skripals case.