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Was fugitive Wirecard COO a spy for Austrian Intelligence Agency? German newspaper reports that he was an undercover agent

By Stephen Rae and Dan Byrne for AMLi

A FURTHER BIZARRE twist in the case of the missing former Wirecard COO has surfaced as a credible German media report claims he was working for Austrian intelligence.

Jan Marsalek, one of Interpol’s most wanted men since his dismissal from Wirecard in June of this year, has been linked to the Austrian domestic intelligence service BVT, Germany’s biggest newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported Thursday.

The Munich based paper – which broke the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers exposés – claims that Marsalek may have been working as an informant with BVT for an undetermined period.

Their evidence reportedly comes from comments made by both German federal prosecutors and members of the German government in response to questioning by lawmakers.

The comments suggested that Marsalek may have in fact worked for multiple spy agencies – not just BVT – but no further elaboration was given at that time.

The disclosures are likely to cause some tension between the neighbouring EU states, with one report saying German chancellor Angela Merkel is astounded at the revelation. It is certain to be raised in the next scheduled telephone conversation she has with Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

The German authorities have been left redfaced by the whole Wirecard scandal, from the failure of oversight to the disappearance without trace of Marsalek. Police and financial watchdogs in Germany will now want to know if Vienna had anything to do with helping the fugitive payments boss disappear. They will also be asking the Austrian authorities to give them any information that will help find the missing executive.

Marsalek served as COO of Wirecard for a decade, culminating in his removal earlier this year as a major fraud and laundering scandal began to unfold around the company.

Some saw him as a mysterious “Walter Mitty” character who boasted of raising a militia with Russian finance to fight in Libya. He was known to frequently fly to Moscow by private jet for meetings and boasted of contacts in Russian intelligence. The Russians too will now want to know his actual connection to Austrian intelligence.

Chief among the irregularities at Wirecard was a sum of €1.9 billion which the firm originally claimed to have on their books. However, subsequent investigation and admissions by senior personnel revealed that the money may not actually exist at all.

Wirecard filed for insolvency around the same time as Marsalek’s dismissal. Marsalek himself has been missing since June, with various reports placing him in Belarus or Russia.

The allegations of Marsalek’s informant role could potentially stir up tension between close political and economic partners Austria and Germany.

The German Ministry of Justice has claimed that, so far, there are “no sufficient factual indications that Jan Marsalek’s contacts with the BVT… constitute an act of secret service agent activity directed against the Federal Republic of Germany.”

However, German Die Linke (The left) Bundestag representative Fabio De Masi – the politician whose questions led to this latest finding – called for action.

“The Chancellor should pick up the phone as quickly as possible and ask Sebastian Kurz [Austrian Chancellor] what the Austrian’s are up to there.”

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