Five Bulgarian nationals are accused of having conspired to collect information that would be useful to an enemy between August 2020 and February this year.
The home of one of the suspects, 45-year-old Orlin Roussev, was used as a “hub” for the alleged spying activity, Westminster magistrate’s court heard, while a man “known as Jan Marsalek” is suspected of being the “tasker”.
Wirecard filed for bankruptcy in June 2020 after it revealed 1.9 billion euros was missing from its accounts. CEO Markus Braun was subsequently arrested and charged with fraud and accounting manipulation, which he denies.
Marsalek, who is currently on the run from German police after Interpol issued a warrant for his arrest, was chief operating officer of the firm and is believed to have fled to a location near Moscow amid its collapse. He has not been charged in connection with the Russian spy case.
Prosecutor Kathryn Selby told the court the defendants are accused of UK-based espionage.
“All five are suspected of being part of an organised network of UK-based Bulgarian nationals conducting surveillance and other information gathering activities against several addresses and individuals on behalf of the Russian state”, she said.
The prosecutor said the defendants are accused of “assisting the Russian state in conducting hostile actions against specific targets including the potential abduction of these targets.”
They each face an identical charge of conspiring to commit an indictable or either way offence outside England and Wales in relation to offences against the state.
All five suspects were arrested by the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command in February under the Official Secrets Act.
They have been remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on October 13.