Five Bulgarian individuals are scheduled to appear in in Westminster Magistrates' Court in London today, after being formally charged with espionage offences under the Official Secrecy Act.
The initial court hearing comes follows an investigation by the Metropolitan Police's counterterrorism division, which is also focused on matters related to official secrets.
The leader of the group, 45-year-old IT specialist Orlin Roussev, and his accomplices — Biser Dzhambazov, Katrin Ivanova, Ivan Stoyanov, and Vanya Gaberova — are accused of collecting information for another state from August 2020 to February 2023. The group “conspired to collect information intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy for a purpose prejudicial to the safety and interest of the state,” the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said on Thursday.
The individuals are also accused of committing various smaller crimes, such as possessing counterfeit documents. All of the five Bulgarian nationals had been residing and working in the UK in recent years. Dzhambazov worked as a driver in a hospital, Ivanova (his partner) was a laboratory technician in a clinic, and Vanya Gaberova worked as a cosmetologist.
According to the investigation, the leader of the group, Orlin Roussev, was recruited by none other than Jan Marsalek — one of the world's most wanted fugitive fraudsters, who had previously served as the Chief Operating Officer of the German payment company Wirecard.
In 2020, The Insider, Bellingcat, and Der Spiegel revealed that Marsalek had fled to Russia on June 19th that year, the day after auditors discovered a missing balance of over $1.5 billion on Wirecard's books. Subsequent investigations established Marsalek's close ties to Russian intelligence services. He had been cooperating with the GRU — Russia's military intelligence agency — since at least 2015, assisting Russian intelligence in creating private military companies in African countries, obtaining information through bribed Austrian security personnel, and carrying out other sensitive missions of interest to Russian security services.
British investigators believe that Marsalek began collaborating with Roussev in 2014. As a specialist in digital surveillance, Roussev provided Marsalek with encrypted communication devices and recruited at least four other Bulgarian citizens mentioned above into his team. He trained them in the use of espionage equipment and encrypted communication for surveillance purposes.