Former Austrian Intelligence Officer Re-Arrested Over Wirecard Espionage Investigation

At approximately 0600 EST, local Austrian media reported that the Austrian Public Prosecutor’s Officer (StA) had executed raids at several houses in Vienna and had arrested former Austrian intelligence officer Egisto Ott as well as another suspect, who as of this publication has remained unnamed. StA spokeswoman Nina Bussek confirmed this information to STANDARD. It is important to note that Ott was already arrested in 2021 over suspicions on helping former Wirecard COO Jan Marsalek who fled to Russia after his company’s collapse in 2020.

Former Austrian intelligence officer Egisto Ott.
Credit: Anja Kröll

The Downfall of the BVT

While the espionage activities of Marsalek are wide-ranging, the inclusion of Austrian intelligence members was a novel and embarrassing incident for the corrupt Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT). Both Ott and ex-BVT department head Weiss have been accused of selling information to Marsalek who was an agent of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU). According to STANDARD, the inclusion of BVT officers in this espionage ring led to the dramatic raids on the intelligence services headquarters in 2020 which revealed wide-ranging corruption and the Russian penetration. The BVT was dissolved and reorganized into the Directorate General for Public Security (DSN) after reports that the BVT had been cut out of most European intelligence sharing.

Jan Marsalek’s Russian Intelligence Career

As for Marsalek, the grandson of an Austrian resistance fighter and suspected Soviet spy, he began working for Wirecard in 2000, working his way up the chain into the company’s executive committee in 2010. Which is also around when he was recruited by the GRU. He was terminated in 2020 when a dramatic scandal broke that Wirecard inflated its balance sheet and claimed billions in East Asian profits, while controlling assets worth next to nothing. Following an investigation for Bellingcat, Der Spiegel, and The Insider which blew the story wide open, Marsalek fled to Belarus then the Russian Federation. Interpol has issued a Red Notice for his arrest, and he remains a fugitive to this day.

His recruitment by the GRU probably occurred in 2010 through his connections in the Austrian-Russian Friendship Society. Through these connections, Marsalek was able to visit Syria “as a guest of the Russian military” and fly to the Russian Federation in a MiG-29 fighter. He was given a cover identity from the GRU as an Orthodox Priest and created his own network of agents which included Natalia Zlobina and at least five Bulgarian nationals.

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United States Military Academy and American Military University Alumni. Victor covers flash military, intelligence, and geo-political updates.