Two Austrians arrested for organising escape of Wirecard’s Jan Marsalek

Senior executive absconds after suspension

The collapse of Wirecard is one of Europe’s biggest postwar accounting frauds that was triggered by the disclosure that €1.9 billion of corporate cash was missing.

The collapse of Wirecard is one of Europe’s biggest postwar accounting frauds that was triggered by the disclosure that €1.9 billion of corporate cash was missing.

 

Vienna police have arrested two men - a former senior official of the Austrian secret service and a former rightwing MP - who are accused of having organised the escape of Wirecard’s former second-in-command Jan Marsalek to Belarus last summer.

Mr Marsalek absconded in June 2020, shortly after he was suspended from Wirecard and days before Munich prosecutors issued an arrest warrant against him.

The former chief operating officer is seen as a mastermind of an accounting fraud that brought down the disgraced German payments group last year.

Prosecutors suspect that the 40-year-old Austrian citizen, who is on Interpol’s most-wanted list, personally embezzled hundreds of millions of euros. Mr Marsalek’s whereabouts is still unknown.

Confidant

A police document seen by the Financial Times is the first official confirmation that he escaped to Belarus via Austria last summer using a private jet he paid for with cash.

Austrian prosecutors last week arrested two men they believe organised the jet, after months of surveillance by Vienna police, people familiar with the investigation told the Financial Times.

Vienna criminal prosecutors on Sunday confirmed that two people were in police custody over Mr Marsalek’s escape but declined to comment on their identities.

According to the official police document, one of the men arrested is a former Austrian secret service official who has been a long-term confidant of Mr Marsalek and met him for dinner at a Munich restaurant on the evening of June 18, hours after Mr Marsalek was suspended at Wirecard.

Cash

On the following day, Mr Marsalek took a taxi to a private airfield in Bad Vöslau in Austria. After arriving late because the taxi driver struggled to find the entrance to the small airport, Mr Marsalek paid two pilots in cash and boarded a chartered Cessna Citation Mustang 510 that flew him to Minsk in Belarus, according to the document.

On Sunday, another employee of Austria’s secret service BVT was arrested, Vienna prosecutors told the FT. This person is alleged to have misused official authority by passing on confidential information to the payments company.

The collapse of Wirecard is one of Europe’s biggest postwar accounting frauds that was triggered by the disclosure that €1.9 billion of corporate cash was missing. Former chief executive Markus Braun and several other former Wirecard managers have been in police custody in Germany for months over the fraud. Mr Braun denies any wrongdoing.

They are accused of faking Wirecard’s balance sheet and defrauding creditors who lent the company €3.2 billion.

A Munich-based lawyer for Mr Marsalek declined to comment. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021