Five Bulgarian citizens were detained after appearing before a London court accused of espionage for Russia.
The three men and two women appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court via video link from four different prisons, remaining silent throughout except to confirm their names and dates of birth, the BBC reported.
Each of them is accused of “conspiracy to collect information intended to be directly or indirectly useful to the enemy with the purpose of harming the security and interests of the state.”
The alleged offenses are said to have taken place between 30 August 2020 and 8 February last year.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram remanded the five in custody until the next hearing in the case at the Old Bailey on October 13.
The five – Orlin Rusev, 45, Biser Jambazov, 42, Katrin Ivanova, 32, Ivan Stoyanov, 31, and Vanya Gaberova, 29 – were arrested by anti-terrorist police terrorism in February under the Official Secrets Act.
Previously, Rusev, Djambazov and Ivanova were accused of “possessing false identity documents with unlawful intent”.
The defendants allegedly conducted surveillance on people and places targeted by Russia.
Such surveillance was apparently intended to help Russia conduct hostile actions against targets, including potential hijackings.
Outlining the charges, prosecutor Catherine Selby said “the operational center in this country for the crime of espionage” was owned by Mr Rusev.
His home address is a now-closed seaside guest house in Great Yarmouth.
Orlin Rusev is believed to have organized and directed the cell’s espionage operations from the UK. Similar operations are said to have taken place in Britain and Europe.
The five individuals are accused of conspiring with “a person known as” Jan Marsalek. He has not been charged in the case. Rusev was given an assignment from abroad by the person.
Marsalek is best known as the Austrian former chief operating officer of Wirecard, who is wanted in Germany after being suspected of fraud.
He is believed to have fled to an airport south of Vienna before flying to Belarus on a private jet and is now in Russia.