It's rare but every now and then a financial villain pops up that's stranger than fiction. They're almost too bad to be true.
In other words, they're everything you hope for in cracking open a new book about a fraud or a heist. This week, we finally got the story we've been waiting for over the last several years as we saw the Wirecard saga explode in the European business world. The book is called Money Men: A Hot Start-up, A Billion Dollar Fraud, A Fight for the Truth, by Dan McCrum (of the Financial Times), and it came out on Thursday (June 16th).
There are many villainous types in the book, but for me there's only one that really takes my breath away: Jan Marsalek, the company's former chief operating officer. Just 42, the Austrian not only played an allegedly central role in the fraud at the center of the company, but also toyed around with militants in Libya, helped sketchy porn empires grow, aided and abetted scam artists, tricked global investigators into thinking he disappeared in the Phillipines and managed to escape Europe on a private jet when the noose was tightening. Just like Jho Low in the 1MDB scandal, who is safely ensconced in China, Marsalek appears to be laying low in Russia without any real risk of facing justice.
We caught up with Dan McCrum to talk about Marsalek, who described him as "completely fascinating." Below are some of the interesting highlights from our conversation.