Moscow Mole The Story Behind Germany's Embarrassing Intelligence Leak
It was May 13, 2021, Ascension Day, in the Bavarian town of Weilheim, and a local club was having a party. The pandemic had put a bit of damper on the festivities, but 10 guests showed up nonetheless. It was a cozy gathering.
The party had been organized by Reno S., a soldier in the German military, the Bundeswehr, and a functionary in the right-wing radical party Alternative for Germany (AfD). Among the invitees was a businessman named Arthur E., and one of his friends from town, a friendly, heavyset man named Carsten L., who coached youth soccer. Arthur E. would later tell investigators that Carsten L. had a fair amount to drink that night and began gloating about working for the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency. Arthur E. and the BND agent apparently took to each other instantly.
Cut to a scene around half a year earlier: The Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, a glamorous building with a red façade located near the Kremlin in the heart of the Russian capital. A room here costs around 500 euros per night.
On October 24, 2020, Arthur E., the businessman who would later attend the party in Weilheim, spent the night here, getting to know the Russian businessman Visa M. A wealthy man, Visa M. spoke to Arthur E. about his business interests. The Russian is thought to have excellent connections to senior Russian politicians, and it seems likely that this was the moment when Arthur E. saw an opportunity to earn a pile of money.
The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 11/2023 (March 11th, 2023) of DER SPIEGEL.
Two meetings, two random encounters – but they mark the beginning of the biggest spying scandal in recent years, perhaps even in recent decades. The upshot of the affair are suspicions that BND agent Carsten L. may well have committed high treason by pilfering important BND documents related to the war in Ukraine and delivering them to Arthur E. Nothing has yet been proven, no charges have been filed and the presumption of innocence remains in effect. But hardly any doubts still remain that Carsten L. was used as a spy.
Arthur E. is thought to have delivered the information to the FSB, the Russian domestic intelligence agency. Visa M., the man Arthur E. met in the Ritz-Carlton, is thought to have connected Arthur E. with the FSB.
The case has rocked the BND, besmirching its reputation as a partner to other Western intelligence agencies – at a time when Russia is waging war against Ukraine. Indeed, in a situation where the secure exchange of extremely delicate information was, and continues to be, crucial, BND information ended up in Moscow. A worst-case scenario and extremely embarrassing for the Germans.
The repercussions have already made themselves felt at the BND. Even as heads of other agencies officially insist that they continue working with the Germans just as cooperatively as ever, agents lower down the chain of command say they have noticed a significant reticence from Germany’s NATO allies. For a time, at least, the governments of the United States, Britain and other countries curtailed intelligence- sharing with Berlin.
Germany’s partners were also aggravated by how easy it apparently was for Carsten L. to smuggle information out of the BND and have it brought to Russia. There are a number of indications that the BND’s control mechanisms failed. And clear warning signs, such as clues pointing to the right-wing extremist leanings of those involved, were ignored.
Carsten L. was apparently able to establish a network of mostly involuntary helpers without his superiors realizing that anything untoward was going on. And all that in an agency that underwent radical restructuring, including the introduction of new levels of control, following the scandal surrounding the U.S. agency NSA several years ago.
A Thriller with Tragi-Comedic Elements
The BND was only able to track down the mole in its ranks thanks to a tip-off from a partner agency, which set off an extensive investigation. Since then, Arthur E., the intermediary to the wealthy Russian businessman, has provided extensive testimony. His statement, to the degree it can be corroborated, is largely consistent with other investigation findings. It’s doubtful, however, that Arthur E. has a complete overview of the case. Carsten L. has apparently remained silent on the allegations thus far. His lawyer chose not to respond to questions and Arthur E.’s lawyer didn’t reply to a DER SPIEGEL request for comment.
Still, it is clear that this particular thriller has plenty of tragi-comedic elements, even if only the Russians are able to laugh at them. And the three main characters seem to be anything but well-seasoned agents.
Visa M., the millionaire businessman, is married to one of the richest women in Russia and, according to information gathered by Western intelligence agencies, he has been friends for several years with a high-ranking FSB functionary.
Arthur E., the German businessman, is a former German soldier who recently earned his money in the diamond trade.
And Carsten L., the Bundeswehr officer, has been working for the BND since 2007, even though his biography when he joined the agency was anything but unproblematic.
Treason suspect: BND employee Carsten L.
[M] Julius Maxim / DER SPIEGEL ; Fotos : DER SPIEGEL; Jürgen Ritter / IMAGO; Evgeniy Maloletka / AP; Stanislav Krasilnikov / TASS / action press
His run-ins with the law began in the 1990s, with cases of suspected assault, insulting police officers and driving drunk. He was fined on two occasions. But he didn’t lose his job with the Bundeswehr, and when he switched to the BND, the intelligence agency also didn’t seem to have a problem with his past. Shortly before he started working for the BND, Carsten L.’s name cropped up as a potential fringe player in an investigation by the Bundeswehr’s Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) into right-wing extremists within the military’s ranks. The investigation, however, ultimately found no evidence against him.
As a former Bundeswehr officer, Carsten L. was a valued agent in Pullach, the town near Munich that is home to a significant BND field office. He was quickly assigned to sensitive missions, being sent to places like Macedonia and Kosovo. He also spent extensive time spying in Afghanistan, providing information to the German soldiers stationed there.
Back in Germany, he was promoted to head a division within the agency in Pullach, where the BND was once headquartered, and which is still home to around 1,000 employees involved in signals intelligence.
At the BND, Carsten L. apparently didn’t go out of his way to conceal his right-wing leanings. One coworker says that he once said words to the effect that refugees should be summarily executed. Other colleagues, though, remember him as being perhaps a bit gruff, but a friendly man who enjoyed drinking beer. Still others say he was a loudmouth and could be manipulative.
"Very Conservative" to "Nationalist"
His political leanings were also no secret to more senior BND levels, and they were a focus of his most recent security check. Agents who work in sensitive areas of the BND must regularly undergo an evaluation. As part of the process, coworkers from the relevant division are interviewed, as are people from the agent’s private circle of friends and acquaintances. In those interviews, Carsten L. was described as being "very conservative" or "nationalist." But the BND seemed unconcerned. Political views, after all, aren’t a crime.
Later, once Carsten L. was under suspicion of being a spy and his employer was secretly monitoring him, internal investigators noted that he apparently didn’t just voice right-wing extremist sentiments, but also subversive views.
In September 2022, the month in which Carsten L. likely delivered the first documents to Russia, he began a new job inside the agency. He was transferred to Berlin to become part of the division responsible for evaluating other agents – the precise division that he had been so successful in deceiving.
Living in the Alpine foothills with his wife and two children, Carsten L. looked to the outside world like an upstanding family man. Until his arrest in December, they lived on the outskirts of Weilheim in a duplex with solar panels on the roof and carefully pruned bushes in the yard. Now, though, several of the shutters are closed and somebody has scratched the name off the mailbox. If you approach the doorbell, an alarm goes off.
Neighbors were surprised when several black sedans rolled up to the house one morning before Christmas. Only later did they realize they belonged to investigators. Carsten L. was, says one neighbor, affable enough and wasn’t at all secretive about working for the BND. Another neighbor says that Carsten L. enjoyed going shooting and that he occasionally had guests over for parties. "Totally normal, really."
For years, he was actively involved in the local soccer club, called TSV 1847, where he coached youth teams and was, for a time, head of the club’s entire youth division. Some parents didn’t like his military tone and pulled their children out of the club, but others say that they appreciated the passion he showed.
On one occasion, he was a chaperone at a camp run by the German Football Association near Kaiserslautern. One photo shows him in climbing gear, smiling from beneath his helmet. He also took part in a town skiing championship a few years ago, competing with his children as "Team L."
Last place in that championship was taken by the "Fish Heads," the family of Reno S., a soldier who had moved to Bavaria from Schwerin in Germany’s far north. Today, Reno S. is deputy head of the AfD chapter in Weilheim. Over the years, the right-wing functionary and Carsten L. apparently became friends. According to the Munich daily Münchner Merkur, the suspected traitor apparently kept AfD material in his locker at the soccer club.
When Carsten L. and Arthur E. met at that Ascension Day party in 2021, the two men perhaps got along so well because of their similar backgrounds. Businessman Arthur E. spent several years as a radio operator for the German military, just like Carsten L. and AfD man Reno S.
Former German Bundeswehr soldier Arthur E. is a suspected co-conspirator in the case.
[M] Julius Maxim / DER SPIEGEL ; Fotos: Ingmar Björn Nolting / laif
Born in the Soviet Union in 1991, Arthur E. emigrated to Germany with his parents when he was still a child. He became a German citizen when he was eight and joined the Bundeswehr before his 18th birthday. He initially signed for 12 years, but left the armed services in 2015.
Following his time in the military, E. apparently founded an import-export company trading for a time in erectile dysfunction medicines. Later, according to investigators, he moved on to precious metals and gemstones. He is said to be married to a Russian dentist.
It’s not difficult to find traces of Arthur E. on the internet. There are pictures showing him as the head of a company based in Sierra Leone and others taken during a visit of his to a Russian conglomerate. He also once attended a fashion show in Moscow.
An examination of his roughly 1,300 Google reviews and flight bookings clearly demonstrates that Arthur E. traveled a lot, apparently making trips to Moscow, Israel, Dubai, Miami, New York and Sierra Leone.
The encounter with Russian businessman Visa M. at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow seemed promising for both of them. A Chechen by birth, Visa M. could very well have seen Arthur E. as someone who could help him get a foothold in the German market, and perhaps also as a possible business partner in Africa.
Arthur E., for his part, felt the business opportunities with the 59-year-old Visa M. were immense.
A Russian Oligarch Fairytale
According to company registries in Russia, Visa M. has found success with investments in the food industry and through lucrative stakes in several companies. He is thought to have close ties to the Kremlin and allies within the FSB. And for many years, he had a residency permit for Germany because he used to be married to a German woman.
But the businessman is also able to freely travel to the European Union without the residency permit. Because even though Visa M. can apparently hardly speak English, he is thought to have a passport from a former British colony in the Caribbean in addition to his Russian citizenship. All you have to do is invest enough money on the island and you become a citizen, allowing you to travel visa-free to Europe. It is a popular trick among Russians to circumvent annoying limits on their freedom of movement.
Visa M.’s current wife, Olga Belyavtseva, also has plenty of money. In 2018, Belyavtseva came in fifth place in a Forbes ranking of the wealthiest women in Russia, with estimated assets of half a billion U.S. dollars. In Russia, that usually translates to excellent political connections.
According to media reports, Belyavtseva owns a home in the gated mansion community of Meyendorff Gardens, near Moscow – one of the most expensive places to live in the entire country. Photos show swanky estates surrounded by park-like gardens. The community is also home to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official guesthouse – and his defense minister apparently also owns property here.
Belyavtseva’s rise in Russia sounds like an oligarch fairytale. Shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, she was working as a packer in a state-owned canned-goods factory, according to reports in the Russian media. During the vast wave of privatizations in Russia in the 1990s, she became a partial owner of the factory.
The sale of the successor company for billions to Pepsi in 2008 netted over $100 million for Belyavtseva, and today, she is co-owner of the largest baby food manufacturer in Russia. In addition, she and Visa M. own a synthetic materials company that supplies such well-known companies as IKEA. Olga Belyavtseva did not respond to a DER SPIEGEL query, and her husband Visa M. could not be reached for comment.
Back in Germany, Arthur E. and Carsten L. met in August 2022 to deepen their new acquaintanceship, choosing the Pöltner Hof, a slightly upscale hotel and restaurant in Weilheim, for their rendezvous. It’s a place that serves traditional fare like bratwurst with red cabbage and mashed potatoes, but guests can also order "Black Label" caviar or Cuban cigars. The AfD functionary Reno S. is thought to have joined them, though he is not a defendant in the case. He did not respond to DER SPIEGEL queries.
That evening, Arthur E. apparently spoke about his numerous business trips. And he admitted that he was under investigation by Munich prosecutors for the possession of a falsified diplomatic passport and because he had stuck a diplomatic sticker to his car. He said he had received the documents from Ukraine due to his involvement with a charity and hoped they would make his many trips that much easier. But, he added, he hadn’t realized they were falsified.
Carsten L., the BND agent, was apparently fascinated by Arthur E.’s stories. He allegedly told Arthur E. that he would make a good BND informant, providing information on terrorist groups in Africa, for example. Arthur E. said he thought the idea was "cool."
But he also wanted something from Carsten L. on that evening. His Moscow friend, Visa M., had asked him for help with obtaining permanent residency for Germany. In exchange, he offered Carsten L. a share of his business deals in Africa. Carsten L. was evasive in his response, but he didn’t reject the idea outright. Perhaps it would be nice for retirement, Carsten L. responded according to Arthur E.’s testimony.
A short time later, Arthur E. asked out of the blue for a current list of sanctions against Russia. According to his testimony, his new friend at the BND, Carsten L., sent him the information a short time later.
First Blackjack, then a Brothel
It’s one of those moments that will later catch the attention of investigators. In their eyes, Arthur E. was using two methods that intelligence agencies like to use when recruiting new sources: First, use money as a lure. Then, ask your mark to supply some harmless information, the sanctions list in this case. Does that mean that Arthur E. had actually shown up to the Pöltner Hof with a plan in place? Was it the first step in the recruitment process? Investigators don’t yet have clear answers to those questions. But people who know Arthur E. think it’s unlikely. He’s hardly an espionage professional, they say, and more of a soldier of fortune.
Carsten L., for his part, apparently wanted to make good on his cautious promises. Three weeks after the long evening in Weilheim, he met with Arthur E. again, this time in a Berlin bar. Along with him was a colleague from the BND, who introduced himself as Philipp, a liaison officer whose task it is to handle sources. Philipp, Arthur E. was told, is responsible for the regions of the Congo and Central Africa. Later, Arthur E. would receive a work phone, which he had to sign for. Internally, he had apparently already been given a cover name as a BND informant.
The conversation between the three was continued in a casino – four days later, Arthur E. would give the Spielbank Berlin on Marlene Dietrich Square in Berlin a five-star rating in Google. Luck, as he would later say, was with him on that evening, and he won 2,000 euros at the Blackjack tables. One of the three men came up with the idea of spending the money again immediately – at a brothel.
They apparently chose Artemis, a vast bordello spread out over 4,000 square meters (43,000 square feet) next to a highway interchange in Berlin’s west. It is home to pools, a bio-sauna, a hammam and plenty of spots for a bit of privacy. Arthur E. told investigators that he and the two BND agents sat at the bar for the entire evening, wrapped in towels. He claimed that they talked about the BND and Africa again, but that they didn’t do anything else there that evening.
Just a few weeks later, on September 12, the paths of the three alleged main actors crossed for the first time. Arthur E., Carsten L., and Visa M., the wealthy Russian, met at Hugo’s Beach Club on the shores of Lake Starnberg just south of Munich. Arthur E. translated, since Visa M. doesn’t speak German.
The third man: Suspect and entrepreneur Visa M.
[M] Julius Maxim / DER SPIEGEL; Fotos: DER SPIEGEL; Privat (3); SNA / IMAGO
Once again, a residency permit for Visa M. was addressed. And again, Carsten L.’s participation in the African business of the other two was brought up.
According to Arthur E.’s account, Visa M. said that he knows a number of important people in Russia. Perhaps, he allegedly continued, a situation might arise in which it would be possible to do something for the benefit of both countries, Russia and Germany.
An Agent in Lederhosen
It’s a sunny, early February afternoon in Bavaria. The trail of Visa M. leads to a quiet housing development in Erding, a suburb of Munich. His name is written on the mailbox of a semi-detached house. It is registered with the German authorities as the Russian's official residence.
In reality, though, he likely never lived here. The building looks deserted, the shutters are down and no one answers the door. Locals just shrug their shoulders when shown photos of Visa M. "Never seen him before." Why would a man who is a member of the Moscow elite have his official address listed here?
The answer may lie in the permanent residency permit for Germany that Visa M. so coveted. For a rich Russian in times of war and crisis, the document would be a golden ticket. One of the many requirements for receiving the permit is a domicile in Germany.
According to Arthur E.’s testimony, two weeks after the meeting at Hugo’s Beach Club at Lake Starnberg, Carsten L. had contacted him again, telling Arthur E. that he had something for his friend, Visa M.
Arthur E. told investigators that they met on a sports field located near the BND offices in Pullach. It was Oktoberfest time, and he says Carsten L. was wearing lederhosen.
He claimed that the BND employee handed him an envelope – with Carsten L. reassuring him that it was just a couple of tables that he had printed out.
The Intelligence Crown Jewels
Arthur E. would later look inside the envelope, as he told investigators, claiming that he saw abbreviations that stood for countries, something about ambulance transports of Russian fighters in Ukraine and a great many numbers, letter sequences and special characters that he didn't understand. Investigators do not want to reveal the details of what Carsten L. allegedly passed on to the Russians. But it probably included highly sensitive information, such as data on soldiers belonging to the Wagner Group, the private mercenary unit that is currently fighting in both Ukraine and Africa. And evidence of ongoing surveillance operations by the BND, the crown jewels of any intelligence agency.
Arthur E. contacted Visa M. and said that if he paid for the flight to Moscow, he would be happy to come. Visa M. agreed that same evening of September 23 and Arthur E. flew to Moscow via Istanbul.
A sedan was waiting at the airport when Arthur E. arrived the next day. The car took him to an apartment that likely belonged to Visa M. A man who introduced himself as "Gassan" was waiting, and he asked Arthur E. to switch his mobile phone into airplane mode. Arthur E. then handed him the envelope.
One day later, Visa M. told Arthur E. that Gassan wanted to see him again. Arthur E., clearly uncomfortable with the encounter, asked him who the man represented. "Lubyanka," Visa M. allegedly replied. The Russian domestic intelligence service FSB has its headquarters at the Lubyanka Building.
The agency has an estimated 350,000 employees, although the majority are involved in border protection. Among the duties tended to by the remainder is spying on and suppressing the Russian opposition.
The FSB also has special military units, and it is responsible for counterespionage. Sometimes, the FSB murders people abroad whom the Russian authorities have decided are enemies of the state – people like former Chechen fighter Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, who was executed in broad daylight in a park in Berlin in the summer of 2019.
It is unclear why the Russian domestic intelligence service would now be taking an interest in German Arthur E. But it is likely only because Visa M. had a contact there.
That evening, Gassan waited for Arthur E. with a colleague named Pavel at Lambic, a high-end brasserie. The agents took him into a separate room in the restaurant. The food was standing ready, but Arthur E. didn’t even touch it, not even the tea that was served along with it.
[M] Julius Maxim / DER SPIEGEL; Nacer Talel / Anadolu Agency / picture alliance; Sean Gallup / Getty Images
Arthur E. would later tell investigators that he saw what he believed to be a pistol in Pavel’s pocket, a Glock. He said they casually let slip how much they already knew about him – his parents, his wife and his relatives in general. Intelligence agencies are good at tightening the thumbscrews.
Murders, Hacking and Espionage
Moscow intelligence agencies have found success with such methods, likely also due to their complete lack of scruples. This is evident not only in acts like the murder in Berlin, but also in hacking operations such as the one against the German parliament in 2015, in which the perpetrators managed to get hold of 16 gigabytes of data. The attack has been attributed to the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. But cases of classic human espionage are also uncovered in Europe time and again.
The Netherlands caught an "illegal" with GRU, who was to be smuggled in as an intern at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In Norway, investigators uncovered a scientist who had been spying for the Russians. And Sweden discovered two GRU operatives who had infiltrated the security agencies there. Meanwhile, DER SPIEGEL and its reporting partners exposed a GRU spy who had been targeted at NATO and U.S. naval bases for years.
Four days after the first meeting, Pavel and Gassan were again waiting for Arthur E. at the upscale brasserie. They handed him a paper with a number of questions, which he then photographed and sent to Carsten L. using an encrypted messaging service. Investigators would later find the photo on Carsten L.’s mobile phone – one of the pieces of evidence for why they believe he is guilty.
The Russians wanted to know, for example, how many American HIMARS multiple rocket launchers had been delivered to Ukraine, whether their GPS functions were permanently activated, and where, exactly, they were located. They were also interested in the transport route of the German air defense system IRIS-T, which was also delivered to Ukraine. Was their intent to bomb German transports?
It’s also fair to ask how seriously the Russians actually expected answers to their questions. HIMARS are highly mobile, and their locations are changing constantly.
In security circles, the questions are seen more as an indication of desperation. At the time Arthur L. received the note, Ukraine was making huge territorial gains, in part because of the American missile launchers. "Russian intelligence agencies were showing up at pretty much every conceivable corner asking about the HIMARS," says one senior intelligence official.
Special Treatment at the Airport
After he returned from Moscow, Arthur E. and BND man Carsten L. met again in Berlin. Carsten L. said was unable to answer the Russians’ questions, suggesting that Arthur E. should perhaps try using publicly available material. Arthur E. told him that he was afraid.
The BND agent then took his friend Arthur E. to a restaurant located near the BND property in Gardeschützenweg and asked him to wait there. Carsten L. then disappeared into the BND building and returned with a briefcase and papers in it, Arthur E. would later tell investigators, adding that Carsten L. hadn't shown much concern about getting caught with the sensitive information.
Arthur E. said he photographed the documents in an apartment in Berlin and Carsten L. then took them back. A few days later, Arthur E. again flew to Moscow. He printed out the photographed documents in the business lounge of his hotel, but when he handed them over to the Russians, they were unhappy. The quality of the photos, they said, according to Arthur E.'s testimony, was poor.
The FSB agents gave Arthur E. three new mobile phones with SIM cards. One was for him, one for Carsten L. and one for Visa M., so that they could now communicate directly. That same evening, a message reached Arthur E. on the phone from a number with the +44 prefix, the country code for Britain. "Test," it read. He responded with a thumbs-up emoji. Communication with the Russians had been established.
But when Arthur E. told Carsten L. about the phone, he wasn't happy. He clearly didn't want the mobile phone intended for him, Arthur E. testified. Carsten L., after all, is a surveillance expert, so perhaps he had reason for concern.
When he returned from Moscow, two BND employees were waiting for Arthur E. at the Munich airport this time, funneling him past customs, which pleased Arthur E. One of the two, probably a BND official from the signals intelligence department, would later become a focus of investigators. Was he part of the conspiracy, or was he just being used by Carsten L., thinking he was helping with the arrival of a new BND informant?
Mysterious Flows of Money
Investigators currently believe that the BND agent was not privy to Carsten L.'s alleged treason plans. But a mysterious flow of money was uncovered: The man is said to have deposited a high four-digit sum into his account, money he is believed to have received from Carsten L. But for what? The man allegedly transferred the money back to Carsten L. It is one of the issues that is as yet unresolved in the case.
According to Arthur E.'s testimony, the Russians called him in mid-October on the mobile phone they gave him. The diamond dealer and Carsten L. were sitting together at the time. The callers expressed their displeasure over the HIMARS responses. Arthur E. put the phone on speaker, but Carsten L. didn't say a word during the exchange, Arthur E. said. Investigators believe he was likely afraid of being recorded.
It is likely around this time that the undercover investigations into the internal leak at the BND began, after the foreign intelligence agency warned the BND about a mole. Suspicion initially fell on a young BND worker, but it later emerged that Carsten L. had asked the staffer’s boss and then the employee herself for help in retrieving the documents from the BND’s filing system.
At the end of October, Moscow agents Pavel and Gassan asked Arthur E. to come to Moscow again, saying he needed to pick something up. Pavel handed him four large envelopes for his friend at the BND, telling Arthur E. that he was responsible for ensuring their delivery. And, according to Arthur E.'s account, they said they wanted information about the HIMARS missiles. Unconditionally, one of the Russians added, according to Arthur E.
When Arthur E. arrived back in Germany, the man from the BND was again waiting at the airport and took him past the customs checkpoint – presumably on Carsten L.’s orders. His luggage likely contained the envelopes with the wages for the alleged treason.
When Arthur E. and Carsten L. met again, Carsten L., as Arthur E. describes it, placed the envelopes unopened into his backpack, showing no emotion. Investigators would later find four envelopes in a locker that Carsten L. had rented from a gold vendor. They contained a six-figure sum in euros – astronomically high for a suspected rookie double agent. The Russians apparently considered him to be valuable.
But a short time later, it was over. On December 22, the agitated Russian intelligence agents called Arthur E., saying he should come to Moscow. Carsten L., they said, had been arrested, it was in the news. The situation had grown too hot in Germany for all concerned.
But Arthur E. made a different decision. He flew to Miami, where his wife was visiting her brother. But the Americans were apparently quickly informed about the man entering the country. FBI officials contacted him, and he ultimately confessed to everything.
In January, two FBI representatives accompanied Arthur E. on a plane to Munich. Upon arrival, German officials arrested him.
Carsten L. is currently in pretrial detention. The only person still free is the third man in the group, Visa M. The investigations in Germany don’t seem to have troubled multimillionaire Visa M. all that much.
According to reporting by DER SPIEGEL, Visa M. was still in Europe in January, even after Carsten L.’s arrest. Data from a flight database indicates that he flew back to Moscow from the airport in the Serbian capital Belgrade using his real name only on January 16.
Visa M. is likely now using a different identity on his travels. Two weeks ago, a Russian named Oleg Shishkin flew from Moscow to India. He happened to be born on the same day as Visa M. Research in Russian passport databases shows that a man with his data has never existed in Russia. The passport number given by the purported Mr. Shishkin at the time of the booking, on the other hand, should look familiar to German investigators: It is the same as that of the entrepreneur Visa M.