On a cool Saturday evening in March, Jan Marsalek headed across Munich for dinner at the home of a friend. It was a welcome respite for the chief operating officer of German payment processor Wirecard AG, as the previous few weeks had been particularly exacting. Allegations of accounting fraud at the fintech company were growing louder, and the press, auditors, and even Wirecard’s board wanted answers—from Marsalek. The small group, including a Russian diplomat, dug into a barbecue spread washed down with ample amounts of vodka, and by the end of the evening Marsalek had consumed two bottles by himself. Then things got weird.
Marsalek, a trim Austrian with a buzz cut and a taste for bespoke suits, lay on the ground, muttering and crying for a good half-hour before his girlfriend scooped him up and drove him home. The other attendees shrugged it off as a response to the Wirecard grind—perhaps overly dramatic—or because he’d recently turned 40. But a few weeks later, it became clear something much bigger was afoot as Wirecard tumbled into insolvency and Marsalek went missing in one of Germany’s biggest corporate scandals ever.