In my yesterday's piece "Russian neo-Nazism in Ukrainian wrapper by Portugal's Publico", I noted a paradoxical situation where a Portuguese journalist published an investigative report into the alleged neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine, named the cells of Russian neo-Nazi organizations. There, I noted that Russia itself has become a training base for radicals from across the world and a refuge for the leaders of such radical groups.
For example, Rinaldo Nazarro aka "Norman Spear" and "Roman Wolf", the FBI-wanted leader of the terrorist neo-Nazi group The Base, safely resides in St Petersburg. The guy doesn't even keep a low profile as he's in no need to hide from Russian law enforcement. His Russian crib is an elite apartment in the city's prestigious historical district.
Just the other day it turned out that one of the world's most wanted criminals Jan Marsalek, a former member of the board of the Germany's Wirecard AG payment operator, who had "lost" € 1.9 billion, had also settled in Russia.
The most wanted financier lives just outside Moscow, enjoying 24/7 personal security under supervision of GRU military intelligence.
Fun fact: it was a well-known trio of The Insider, Bellingcat, and Der Spiegel who contributed to revealing his whereabouts. Incidentally, the latter outlet not so long ago got into an embarrassing situation over posting a fake story regarding Russia's alleged ultimatum to Ukraine on the status of Donbas, which fit perfectly into Russian propaganda narratives.
Now back to Marsalek though… Obviously the man was GRU's "financial project", a "cow to milk", as they say. The agency would use the money it got from him, including, for funding clandestine operations in the EU, recruiting assets and paying certain media and political parties for support and lobbying Moscow's interests, as well as radical groups – for sowing chaos wherever and whenever the Kremlin deemed necessary.
They would never allow access of European investigators to such a valuable "cow". After all, the man knows more than enough to cause major trouble. Besides, it would be clearly beyond Russia's interests to physically eliminate Mr Marsalek, because he had certainly secured his highly valuable status with the GRU, becoming a living key to colossal sums that the GRU doesn't have on hand.
But as it's been happening since the 1990s, the FSB's envy played its role. The rivaling agency just couldn’t stand the fact that the GRU has managed to extract someone who keeps the secret of access to over $2 billion. So they simply organized the relevant leak targeting the competing office. And the leak went through the long-tested trio of platforms used for such operations: The Insider, Bellingcat and Der Spiegel… In fact, the trend has become way too obvious and primitive.
On the other hand, we have received yet another proof that Russia is turning into a safe haven for criminals, outcasts, and scoundrels. A kind of leper colony for renegades from all over the world. So much for the reputation, really!
I also wish good health to Mr Jan Marsalek! He might as well need it, too. After all, having escaped from the EU justice to take shelter in Russia, he can't even imagine the size of a jar of spiders he got into, and how harmful the Russian climate might be for the health of people like himself.