Five Bulgarians have been charged with spying for Russia after it was discovered that they were gathering “useful” information for the Kremlin while living in the United Kingdom.
On Tuesday, Orlin Roussev, Bizer Dzhambazov, Katrin Ivanova, Ivan Stoyanov, and Vanya Gaberova are scheduled to appear in Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Between August 2020 and February 2023, they are all accused of conspiring to obtain information that would be valuable to an enemy. According to the Metropolitan police, which is in charge of espionage cases, three of the accused – Mr Roussev, Mr Dzhambazov, and Ms Ivanova – were discovered with bogus identification documents. They possessed passports for the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, and the Czech Republic.
Nick Price, head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)’s Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: “The CPS has authorised a charge of conspiracy to conduct espionage against three men and two women suspected of spying for Russia. Orlin Roussev, 45, Bizer Dzhambazov, 41, Katrin Ivanova, 31, Ivan Stoyanov, 31, and Vanya Gaberova, 29, will be charged with conspiring 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 between August 30 2020 and February 8 2023. 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 trio has been in the UK for several years, working in various jobs and living in various suburban homes. Mr Roussev has a history of business operations in Russia and relocated to the UK in 2009 to work in a technical job in financial services for three years. According to his LinkedIn profile, he later operated a business specializing in signals intelligence, which entails the collection of communications or electrical signals.
Mr Roussev, whose most recent address is a coastal hostel in Great Yarmouth, also claims to have worked for the Bulgarian Ministry of Energy. Mr Dzhambazov is a hospital chauffeur, while Ms Ivanova portrays herself as a laboratory assistant for a private health business on her online LinkedIn site. According to online Bulgarian official documents, they also worked for electoral commissions in London that allow residents living abroad to vote in Bulgarian elections.
Neighbors at two properties previously occupied by the couple told the BBC that they brought round pies and cakes as gifts. Counter-terrorism officers have spoken out about the rising amount of time spent investigating potential state threats and espionage, particularly in relation to Russia. Using the lethal nerve poison Novichok, Russian operatives attempted to assassinate former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 2018. Later that year, an unrelated local woman died after being exposed to the nerve poison that had been left in Wiltshire.
The five Bulgarians were arrested by the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command in February under the Official Secrets Act. They are all due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on September 26.