Hunt for Ex-Wirecard Executive Goes Public in Germany

A handout photo made available by the German Federal Criminal Police Office late Wednesday shows former Wirecard executive Jan Marsalek.

Photo: GERMAN FEDERAL CRIMINAL POLICE/SHUTTERSTOCK/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BERLIN—German investigators are asking the public to help them find Jan Marsalek, the elusive former Wirecard AG WDI -10.56% executive who prosecutors suspect played a central role in inflating the fintech company’s results by booking fake income for years.

The German payments group, which was briefly worth more than the country’s largest bank, filed for insolvency in late June after disclosing that more than $2 billion of its cash supposedly held in trustee-managed bank accounts was probably fake.

German prosecutors suspect Mr. Marsalek, longtime Chief Executive Markus Braun and others colluded to inflate the company’s results by booking fake income since at least 2015, which allowed Wirecard to raise €3.2 billion ($3.8 billion) in loans prosecutors believe are now likely lost.

But while Mr. Braun and three others have been arrested since, Mr. Marsalek has eluded authorities since the company’s collapse in June.

Earlier hints about the former executive’s whereabouts pointed to the Philippines and then Russia, but investigators said Wednesday that an international search for him had failed so far.

The handout shows Mr. Marsalek with and without a beard.

Photo: GERMAN FEDERAL CRIMINAL POLICE/shutterstock/european pressphoto agency

Germany’s Bundeskriminalamt, or BKA—the local equivalent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation—late Wednesday said Mr. Marsalek likely fled Germany in the days after Wirecard suspended him on June 18 and that it strongly suspected him to be abroad. The company dismissed him days later.

The agency distributed search posters in German and English through its website, social media and television, asking if anyone had seen him since June or knew where he was.

On the poster it said Mr. Marsalek was strongly suspected of “having committed billions in commercial gang fraud” and a “particularly serious case of embezzlement and other property and economic offenses.”

Mr. Marsalek’s lawyer declined to comment. Mr. Braun has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Mr. Marsalek played a material role in Wirecard’s operations for years. As chief operating officer, he was in charge of all of Wirecard’s operations, including its sales, BKA said.

Related

  • How Germany’s SEC Dismissed a Decade of Warnings About Wirecard (July 16)
  • How Wirecard Went From Tech Star to Bankrupt (July 2)
  • Wirecard Files for Insolvency After Revealing Accounting Hole (June 25)

Since 2015, he had also been primarily responsible for Wirecard’s Asia business and for overseeing the company’s relationships with third-party firms, BKA said. These third-party acquirers were meant to process payments for Wirecard in markets where it didn’t have licenses. Revenue from those partnerships made up a big chunk of Wirecard’s business, according to documents seen by The Wall Street Journal, and have become a focus of investigators.

Wirecard said in a June 22 statement that it was unsure about the nature of its business with these parties. That same day, a Munich court issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Marsalek, BKA said.

Mr. Marsalek has seemingly vanished.

From the Archive

Payment processing company Wirecard was the darling of Germany’s fintech industry until auditors uncovered a $2 billion hole in its accounting. WSJ explains what we know about the missing money, as investigators are still trying to understand what happened. Photo composite: George Downs

Philippines immigration records initially appeared to show Mr. Marsalek transited through the country in June before departing on a flight to China, but investigators say they were faked. On Thursday, the country’s National Bureau of Investigation, known as the NBI, said it had asked the justice department to prosecute two immigration officers for falsifying the travel records.

The two officers were identified as Perry Michael Q. Pancho and Marcus S. Nicodemus. The NBI said Mr. Nicodemus was a duty supervisor in Manila when Mr. Marsalek’s false arrival record was entered into an electronic database, and Mr. Pancho created the false departure record from the city of Cebu. The officers couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The NBI said there are no indications Mr. Marsalek is currently in the Philippines.

German public broadcaster ZDF on Wednesday also broadcast photos of Mr. Marsalek—one of him shaven and another with a beard—on a popular show on unsolved crimes.

Write to Ruth Bender at [email protected]

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