The accused—Orlin Roussev, 45, Bizer Dzhambazov, 41, Katrin Ivanova, 31, Ivan Stoyanov, 31, and Vanya Gaberova, 29—are suspected to have conducted reconnaissance for Russia in order to help Moscow with potential abduction plans for some targets, according to The Guardian. They have been remanded to custody before a hearing next month.
The five were arrested in February under the Official Secrets Act for alleged criminal activity, including conspiracy to conduct espionage. Roussev’s home was allegedly an “operating hub” for espionage for the team, though their operations spanned Europe, prosecutor Kathryn Selby said, according to the BBC.
The suspected spies are said to have worked with one of Europe’s most wanted fugitives, Jan Marsalek, who was the chief operating officer of Wirecard, a payment processor and financial services provider that went bust in 2020. Marsalek was responsible for sales and running the Asia business, but according to German authorities, he inflated the sales volume of the company, acting together with the CEO of Wirecard, Markus Braun.
The company has admitted that approximately $2.1 billion of its assets probably never existed.
Interpol has previously issued a red notice for Marsalek, who is wanted in Germany for “suspected gang-type fraud committed on a repetitive and gainful basis,” according to German authorities.
Marsalek fled to Minsk, Belarus when he came under suspicion, according to Bellingcat, and is suspected to have eventually fled to Moscow. According to the Dossier Center and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Marsalek is suspected of helping provide financial services to Russian intelligence officers and having connections to private military companies in the Middle East and Africa.
The five Bulgarian suspects are said to have worked with Marsalek and “others unknown.”
Marsalek allegedly communicated with the accused spy ring about espionage tools, physical surveillance of Russian targets, and obtaining military equipment for Russia. Marsalek also allegedly tasked the group with surveillance of a military base in Germany, DW reported.
Marsalek’s lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment on the latest allegations.
The case is just the latest spy case to rankle the U.K., where just earlier this month officials sought to tamp down on news about a staffer at Parliament who was arrested on suspicion of spying for China.
Britain and Europe have long been teeming with Russian spies, according to U.K. intelligence services. In recent years, Russian agents went after Sergei Skripal and his daughter in southern England with a poison attack. Russia fatally poisoned Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence official, in 2006. Last year, the British MI5 chief noted that more than 400 Russian spies were expelled from Europe in the “most significant strategic blow” to Moscow’s espionage game in years.
Inside the covers
According to his LinkedIn, Roussev is the owner of NewGenTech LTD, an alleged artificial intelligence company.
Dzhambazov and Ivanova have been described as a couple, but have used the names “Max and Kate,” according to the Mirror. Ivanova lists herself on LinkedIn as a medical laboratory assistant. T(he firm she claimed to work for did not immediately return a request for comment.)
Gaberova appears to have worked as a beautician at a west London salon, and claims to have won many prizes for her eyelash extension skills. The website listed on the company’s social media pages is defunct, and the phone number is listed is “temporarily unavailable.” But the company’s Facebook page has posted several photos of lash work on customers, claiming they are lash extensions or lash lifsts by Vanya.
Gaberova’s instagram, which is private, cryptically notes: “Forget the past…Forget what’s next…You are nowhere and everywhere now.”
Her lash artist instagram page notes she is a “Winner in World Championships.”
One user notes in a Google review that Gaberova was professional and did a great job with her lashes.
“Had classic lashes done with Vanya, I’m really pleased with them they look fabulous,” the supposed client said. “Vanya was very professional and did a great job on them. Highly recommend this place…”
“This girl is EXCEPTIONAL,” one other user said. “Everyone needs Vanya in their life (she is stunning too) plus she is very very reasonable.”
Another user, though, claims Gaberova was a no-show for her appointment last year.
“Booked a manicure and the salon was closed when I arrived 10 mins early. Then went back on the time I booked 10.30am and it was still closed. Called up a lady answered, totally unprofessional and knew nothing about my booking. she told me that Vanya was not in…” the user said. “I decided to give it a miss and not waste my money on someone that didn’t seem bothered or half hearted.”
The manager of the Portuguese Vilamoura cafe across the street from the salon said that she drinks lattes at the cafe sometimes, but gave no indications she was a spy.
“She was a lovely woman, very discreet, very polite,” he said, according to the Mirror. “I wouldn’t have suspected her of being a spy but if she was, she was a good one.”