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FirstFT: German spies shunned offer to meet Wirecard fugitive Jan Marsalek in Moscow

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Germany’s foreign intelligence service last year shunned an offer to meet former Wirecard executive Jan Marsalek in Moscow, fearing that the invitation to talk to the fugitive was a trap set up by Russia’s FSB spy agency, people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times.

German criminal prosecutors accuse Marsalek, Wirecard’s former second-in-command, of being a central culprit in the €3.2bn fraud that shocked the country’s political and financial establishment.

Long hailed as one of Germany’s few tech success stories, the digital payments company collapsed into insolvency in June 2020 shortly after disclosing that half of its revenue and €1.9bn in corporate cash did not exist.

The meeting of Marsalek with Germany’s BND spy agency was proposed in March 2021 by a businessman, according to people briefed on the matter. But the idea was rejected by senior BND staff in Berlin, who believed that the businessman might be an informal associate of the FSB.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Gary

The latest from the war in Ukraine

1. Barclays in BoE crosshairs over ‘gaming’ pension deals Bank of England regulators warned lenders about “gaming the rules” with capital arbitrage transactions via their pension schemes, a message largely directed at Barclays, which has used such deals to boost its capital level and could take a £1.25bn hit should the transactions be forced to be unwound.

2. Tax experts query Sajid Javid’s non-dom status claim The UK health secretary’s “non-dom” status, which he held for two decades before entering parliament, has come under question by tax experts, who said the fact that Javid was an international banker and his father was born in Pakistan was not enough to entitle him to the perk.

3. Texts reveal UK traders exulting over negative oil price in 2020
A US judge has allowed a case to proceed against UK traders accused of causing an unprecedented crash in oil futures markets after ruling that text messages were sufficient to point towards a potential conspiracy.

4. New York City subway attack suspect arrested The suspect in a New York City subway shooting that left 10 people wounded and traumatised the city was arrested by police and charged in federal court. Frank James, 62, was apprehended without incident after a tip from a citizen, police said.

  • Go deeper: James’s motives remain unknown, but the attack appeared calculated to unnerve a city where public safety has become an overriding concern and businesses are struggling to recover from the pandemic.

5. UK to unveil deal with Rwanda on cross-Channel migrants The UK is set to announce a deal with Rwanda today in its latest attempt to address clandestine cross-Channel migration. Officials said home secretary Priti Patel, who has long sought to hold asylum seekers in Australian-style offshore processing centres, had secured a “migration and economic development partnership” with the African country.

The day ahead

Economic data Israel releases fourth-quarter growth domestic product figures today. The nation’s economy is forecast to grow 5.5 per cent this year. The European Central Bank’s governing committee meets in Frankfurt under pressure on monetary policy. (Reuters, FT)

Corporate earnings On a big day for US bank earnings, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo report first-quarter earnings. Ericsson, State Street and TSMC also release results.

Sikh festival of Vaisakhi The holiday marks the start of the Punjabi New Year. (BBC)

What else we’re reading

The corner of France that explains Macron, Le Pen and a deep political divide To understand the forces reshaping French politics, one only needs to visit the booming city of Bordeaux in south-west France — and the rural areas and small towns in the “crescent of poverty” around it.

Why 1980s Oxford illuminates Britain’s ruling class Their student days hold the key to understanding this generation of Conservatives, writes Simon Kuper, from their pet project Brexit to their elitist “chumocracy”.

South Africa’s xenophobic vigilantes The brutal murder of Mbhodazwe “Elvis” Nyathi has highlighted the rise of xenophobic vigilantes as an organised political force in South Africa, where the authority of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government is waning as it struggles to turn around a flagging economy.

Why the US targets some Russian oligarchs but not others Vladimir Potanin is Russia’s richest man and one of the original oligarchs. Yet he and others have avoided asset freezes and transaction bans, raising questions about the logic underpinning the US sanctions regime.

The succession crisis threatening Japan’s economy The world’s third-largest economy was built on craftsmanship and family enterprise, but Japan’s rapidly shrinking and ageing population means a shortage of heirs now jeopardises that legacy.


The best films to watch this week include Viking saga The Northman, wartime espionage drama Operation Mincemeat, escapist action-comedy The Lost City and the return of JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts.

Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore in ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’
Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore in ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’ © Warner Bros Pictures

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