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The trail of one of Europe's most wanted men leads to Russia, to the city of Lipetsk.

Konstantin Bajasov regularly holds a church service here.

Dark beard, short hair – the priest resembles someone in hiding: ex-Wirecard board member Jan Marsalek.

And that's exactly what the fugitive manager took advantage of.

Jörg Diehl, DER SPIEGEL:

»The decisive factor for us was that there was a leak.

A Russian passport database has been hacked and we have contacted the group that hacked this database and sent them a picture of Jan Marsalek with the request that they please see if there is a man of that appearance in this passport database finds."

And indeed: Jan Marsalek's photo can be found in the data set.

On the passport of the Russian priest Konstantin Bayazov.

Jörg Diehl, DER SPIEGEL:

"We were of course electrified that we suddenly saw Jan Marsalek's photo in this Russian passport."

After the collapse of Wirecard, the manager uses the identity of the Russian priest to flee from the German law enforcement authorities.

But how did Marsalek get his hands on the Russian doppelganger and his passport?

Journalists from ZDF try to reach the priest in Lipetsk by phone.

Joachim Bartz, ZDF Frontal:

»My name is Joachim Bartz, I am a journalist for the German television station ZDF.

Am I connected to Mr. Bayazov?”


“What do you want?”

Joachim Bartz, ZDF Frontal:

“Do you know the businessman Jan Marsalek?”

Joachim Bartz, ZDF Frontal:

»He answered and the first time he hung up when he heard the word Marsalek and then the second time the answering machine went on and the third time he answered it again and said he couldn't do it talk.

And when I asked if he knew Marsalek, he said: He can't answer that question.

So he didn't say no to anything, didn't say yes and seemed a bit annoyed because apparently we weren't the only ones who asked him.

And I asked, is that him, Mr. Bajasov?

And then he said: That could be true.

For a long time, Jan Marsalek's story seemed to be nothing more than a business crime thriller.

A school dropout rises to the board of the financial group Wirecard, the German economy's greatest hope in decades.

And then the company implodes: 1.9 billion euros disappear and more than 5,000 people lose their jobs.

An economic scandal - but the Wirecard crash and Marsalek's escape are now taking on a new dimension.

Jörg Diehl, DER SPIEGEL:

»We have now managed to uncover his identity, find out how he escaped, who hid him, where he hid.

And we were also able to find out that he has been in contact with Russian secret services for many years.

Without contacts with Russian authorities, it would probably have been impossible that Marsalek apparently traveled through Russia with a false passport and visited Crimea, among other places, while the German authorities were looking for him.

To find out more about Marsalek's collaboration with the Russian state apparatus, two SPIEGEL journalists traveled to Dubai in mid-February.

The research project by SPIEGEL, ZDF, the "Standard" from Austria and the Russian investigative platform "The Insider" is based, in addition to secret documents and emails, primarily on conversations with people close to Marsalek.

In Dubai, the journalists want to meet a friend of the manager, Stanislaw Petlinski.

Petlinski is said to be Marsalek's liaison to the Russian secret services.

Jörg Diehl, DER SPIEGEL:

»We got a tip about where Stanislaw Petlinski is.

As he says, he's a security consultant who travels quite a bit in Africa, obviously to sell security services to all sorts of despots there.

And we knew that he was often in Dubai.

And we also knew approximately when he would be in Dubai and where he usually stayed there.

And then two of my colleagues, Fidelius Schmid and Roman Lehberger, flew to Dubai and actually met Stanislaw Petlinski on a hotel terrace and were able to have a short conversation with him about Jan Marsalek, his friend.

There are many indications that Wirecard was involved in Russian secret service activities - that money was possibly laundered and mercenaries were paid through the company.

At an internal company meeting shortly before Wirecard's collapse, Marsalek does what he does best: deceive and lie to the workforce.

Jan Marsalek, Wirecard Board of Directors May 4, 2020

»We do not expect any major obstacles or problems.

Hopefully there won't be a second corona wave waiting for us.

Hopefully Corona will not affect our progress.

We remain confident there too.”

Was Marsalek using Germany's flagship company for the benefit of a hostile power?

Did this help in waging wars?


»I think for a long time in Germany we perceived Marsalek as a harmless fraudster, more as a “catch me if you can”, cuddly and somewhat ruthless manager.

And I think we have to admit that the picture was not correct, but that he has been in contact with very dangerous men for many years, not only moving in a very dangerous scene, but also claiming that he is founding spy rings there and guides.

And I think our image of Jan Marsalek was not correct, but rather he is much more cynical, more dangerous, more brutal than we always thought in Germany.

In this Art Nouveau villa in Munich, his two lives, the official and the secret, merge.

From 2016, Marsalek has been using the address as a control center.

Until recently, the Russian Consulate General was located opposite.

Jörg Diehl, DER SPIEGEL:

»The Russian state is obviously protecting Jan Marsalek because he still seems to be useful to them in a certain way.

I don't know how long it will stay like this.

I don't think he'll get caught by chance, that he'll fall into a trap or anything, but I think if he did, he could possibly make a conscious decision to turn himself in.

But as long as he enjoys Russia's protection, he can feel safe.

However, I think this much can already be announced: We will be taking a few more research steps and I believe that this will not be the last publication about Jan Marsalek.