The United Kingdom accused five Bulgarian spies of working for Russia: they had 34 documents from nine different countries

Judicial artists’ sketches of Bulgarian citizens, from left: Katrin Ivanova, Vanya Gaberova, Orlin Roussev, Ivan Stoyanov and Bizer Dzhambazov, appearing by video conference at Westminster Magistrates’ Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA via AP) (Elizabeth Cook /)

Five Bulgarians residing in the United Kingdom, accused of spying for Russia, appeared at an initial hearing on Tuesday.

The three men and two women are accused of “conspiring to gather information with the intention that it be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy”, that is, Russia, between August 2020 and February of this year.

The five are accused of being part of a surveillance network benefiting the Kremlin. Much of the activity took place outside the country, but coordination took place in the United Kingdom, according to prosecutors.

Orlin Roussev, 45 years old; Bizer Dzhambazov, 41; Katrin Ivanova, 31; Ivan Stoyanov, 31, and Vanya Gaberova, 29, appeared by video link before Westminster Court in London. The suspects, imprisoned in different prisons, spoke only to confirm details.

Britain accuses 5 Bulgarians of spying for Russia
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Bulgarian national Bizer Dzhambazov, appearing via video link at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. (Elizabeth Cook/PA via AP) (Elizabeth Cook/)

Anti-terrorism officers from the Metropolitan Police arrested them in February for violating the official secrets law.

Roussev, Dzhambazov and Ivanova were accused in February of possessing false identity documents, but the news only emerged in August.

They are accused of possessing 34 identity documents, some of them allegedly false, from the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece and the Czech Republic.

The five will remain in prison until their next appearance before the Central Criminal Court on October 13.

Britain accuses 5 Bulgarians of spying for Russia
Court artist’s sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Bulgarian citizen Orlin Roussev. (Elizabeth Cook/PA via AP) (Elizabeth Cook/)

Few details have emerged about the suspects and how they operated. Roussev worked in Telecommunications services and his LinkedIn profile says he owned an artificial intelligence company called NewGenTech.

He is said to have been living in a boarding house in Great Yarmouth, on the east coast of England, when he was arrested.

Ivanova’s profile describes her as medical laboratory assistantwhile government documents reveal that Gaberova was cosmetologisthas run a salon in London called Pretty Woman since 2019. The British press has published photos of Gaberova in eyelash extension competitions.

The suspects are accused of conspiring with “another person known as Jan Marsalek and other unknown persons.”

Britain accuses 5 Bulgarians of spying for Russia
Court artist’s sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Bulgarian citizen Katrin Ivanova. (Elizabeth Cook/PA via AP) (Elizabeth Cook/)

Marsalek, an Austrian citizen who is not charged in the case of the five, is the former operations manager of Wirecard, a German payment systems provider that collapsed in 2020 due to scandalous fraud.

Marsalek, considered a key participant in that scandal, has been on the run since mid-2020 and his whereabouts are unknown.

(with information from AP)