Since his disappearance last month, former Wirecard COO Jan Marsalek has arguably been one of the most wanted people in the world. However, on July 18th, 2020, investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat reported that the search may be over: Marsalek is suspected to be located in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus.
Marsalek’s location was determined by Bellingcat in collaboration with two of its investigative partners: german news outlet Der Spiegel and The Insider, another news firm.
Marsalek originally disappeared in June, following revelations that Wirecard’s books may be cooked
Marsalek originally went off the grid in June, following the revelation that Wirecard–the company he oversaw the operations of since 2010–had a hole in its books that was roughly €2 billion deep. The problems in the books allegedly seemed to relate specifically to Wirecard’s operations in Asia.
The missing funds were brought to light by auditors who discovered that the €2 billion–which was believed to be sitting in third-party trustee bank accounts in East Asia–wasn’t there at all. Widely recognized as the company’s second-in-command and the head of its Asia operations, Marsalek was heavily implicated by the missing cash.
As a result of the revelation, Wirecard CEO Dr. Markus Braun was arrested and indicted on charges of false accounting and market manipulation.
At the same time, Wirecard’s management team (including Marsalek) was terminated by the company. The same day, Marsalek allegedly told his colleagues that he was going to the Philippines to chase down the €2 billion.
Bellingcat reported that while airline bookings and immigration documents do create a paper trail that shows Marsalek’s arrival in Manila on June 23rd, the trip was a “red herring”. Marsalek’s immigration documents had been forged: the whole thing was a hoax.
At the same time, Bellingcat found that Marsalek had told a colleague that he was hiding out “the same people have been in power for the last 25 years.” (Belarus fits that description.) Data obtained by Bellingcat also shows that he flew to Belarus on June 19th and did not leave the country after that.
Marsalek’s interest in avoiding arrest may span beyond Wirecard woes
The Financial Times–which has been publishing ‘House of Wirecard’ (an investigative reporting series on the company) for quite some time–reported that since his disappearance, Marsalek has become a person of interest to at least three western intelligence agencies.
However, the intelligence interest in Marsalek–as well as his own efforts to avoid arrest–may span beyond the missing €2 billion.
Specifically, the western intelligence officials seem to be particularly interested in Marsalek’s alleged connections with Russian military intelligence directorate, the GRU. The GRU has been blamed for incidences such as the 2014 War in Donbass, Ukraine, and the manipulation of the 2016 presidential election in the United States.
Western intelligence officials have reason to believe that Marsalek may have been involved with the GRU to conduct shadowy business in war-torn Libya.
According to Bellingcat, investigations have also shown that Russia’s Federal Security Service’s, or FSB, may have been involved in helping Marsalek disappear in June by tampering with his travel information. Documents also show that Marsalek was a frequent visitor of Russia, and had made more than 60 trips to the country over the last 10 years.