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Five Bulgarians accused of being Russian spies appear in court for first time
26 September 2023, 15:09 | Updated: 26 September 2023, 15:39
Five Bulgarians charged with spying for Russia are accused of collecting information to help with abduction plots, a court has been told.
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The three men and two women are accused of conspiring to collect information that would be useful to an enemy between August 2020 and February this year.
Bizer Dzhambazov, 41, and Katrin Ivanova, 31, were living together in Harrow in west London, while Vanya Gaberova, 29, from Churchway, in Camden was running a beauty salon called Pretty Woman.
They appeared at Westminster magistrates court on Tuesday alongside Orlin Roussev, 45, of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk and Ivan Stoyanov, 31, from Greenford, west London.
The five, who all have EU settled status, appeared via video link at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday morning and only spoke to confirm they could hear and see the court, to state their names and dates of birth.
The defendants all appeared via videolink from the prisons they are being held in, for a hearing in front of Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram.
Prosecutor Kathryn Selby told the court the defendants are accused of UK-based espionage.“All five are suspected of being part of an organised network of UK-based Bulgarian nationals conducting surveillance and other information gathering activities against several addresses and individuals on behalf of the Russian state”, she said.
The prosecutor said the defendants are accused of “assisting the Russian state in conducting hostile actions against specific targets including the potential abduction of these targets.”
They each face an identical charge of conspiring to commit an indictable or either way offence outside England and Wales in relation to offences against the state.
Roussev, Dzhambazov and Ivanova were previously charged on February 11 2023 with possession of false identity documents with improper intention under section 4 of the Identity Documents Act 2010.
The court was told that all five defendants were arrested in February this year for offences contrary to the Official Secrets Act.
The five are alleged to be part of a "network" conducting surveillance on behalf of the Russian state.
The court was told that a large part took place abroad but coordination took place in the UK.
Roussev’s hub was used as a “hub” for the alleged spying activity, while a man “known as Jan Marsalek” is suspected of being the “tasker”, the court was told.
Mr Marsalek was the Austrian former chief operating officer of the company Wirecard, who became a wanted man in Germany after being suspected of having committed fraud.