Germany seeks Russia’s help in finding former Wirecard executive

German authorities have asked Russian officials if Jan Marsalek, the former Wirecard executive who ran operations for the disgraced fintech company, had entered Russia and requested they act on an Interpol notice issued for his arrest.

The request, made on July 22, and a “red notice” issued through multilateral police organisation Interpol were disclosed in written answers the German government provided to lawmakers on 29 July and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The lawmakers are probing the fallout of Wirecard, which filed for insolvency last month after auditors found a $2bn hole on its balance sheet.

The Russians hadn’t responded to the German request as of 28 July, according to the written answers.

A Wirecard spokeswoman had no comment.

A lawyer for Marsalek didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. A Russian government spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

German prosecutors are investigating former Wirecard officials over accounting fraud and money laundering. Earlier this month, they arrested three former executives, including longtime Chief Executive Markus Braun, under suspicion that they colluded to inflate the company’s results by booking fake income. Braun has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Marsalek has eluded authorities. He went missing around the time Wirecard suspended him on June 18. He was first thought to be in the Philippines, but reports by investigative journalism website Bellingcat and German news magazine Der Spiegel said he may be in Belarus or Russia.

Marsalek was a lynchpin of Wirecard’s operations for years. He oversaw the company’s relationships with third-party firms that processed payments for Wirecard in markets where it didn’t have licenses, according to people familiar with the company. Revenue from those partnerships made a big chunk of Wirecard’s business, according to documents seen by The Wall Street Journal, and have become a focus of investigators.

The company said in a June 22 statement that it was unsure about the nature of its business with these parties.

An Interpol red notice is a request to law enforcement agencies worldwide to locate and arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or other legal action, according to the international police agency. Interpol said it doesn’t comment on specific cases or individuals except in special circumstances and with the approval of the member country concerned.

The German government’s briefing to lawmakers comes as Berlin grapples with failing to act sooner on Wirecard, the country’s biggest financial scandal in recent years. Lawmakers grilled Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and economics minister Peter Altmaier at a closed-door meeting of the parliament’s finance committee Wednesday.

Last week, Scholz presented a reform plan to strengthen financial oversight of companies in Germany after markets watchdog BaFin came under fire for failing to act on tips and suspicions raised about Wirecard for over a decade. The plan would give BaFin greater investigative powers.

Write to Patricia Kowsmann at [email protected] and Ruth Bender at [email protected]

This article was published by Dow Jones NEWSPLUS