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British man accused of plotting arson attacks in London on behalf of Russia



Earl has been charged under the National Security Act 2003 (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A British man has been charged with plotting arson attacks on Ukraine-linked businesses in London after allegedly being recruited as a Russian spy.

David Earl, 20, is accused of being the mastermind behind a huge fire on an industrial estate in Leyton, east London, on March 20.

Four other men – Paul English, 60; Nii Mensah, 21; Jake Reeves, 22; and Dmitrijus Paulauska, 22 – have also been charged in connection with the case.

According to court documents, Earl is accused of being linked to the ascribed terror group Wagner.

The private military company gained notoriety for its brutality in Ukraine, and caught the world’s attention when its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin led an armed rebellion in June last year that appeared to be targeting Moscow before it was called off.

Earl, from the tiny Leicestershire village of Elmesthorpe, is alleged to have targeted businesses which were linked to Ukraine in order to benefit the Russian state, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

He is also accused of undertaking fraudulent activity, research and reconnaissance of targets, and attempting to recruit individuals to materially assist a foreign intelligence service carrying out UK-related activities.

It took more than four hours for 60 firefighters to tackle the March 20 fire at the Staffa Road industrial estate.

In the charges, the man alleged to have been targeted in the attack is called ‘Mr X’.

Eight fire engines were sent to tackle the industrial estate fire last month (Picture: London Fire Brigade)
Dmitrijus Paulauska, left, and Jake Reeves in a court sketch (Picture: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire)

The details of the case, which have been withheld for national security reasons, can be reported today for the first time.

A CPS statement said: ‘Included in the alleged activity was involvement in the planning of an arson attack on a Ukrainian-linked commercial property in March 2024.

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‘Two further men, Paul English, 60, and Nii Mensah, 21, have also been charged with aggravated arson in connection with this case.

‘Another man, Jake Reeves, 22, has been charged with agreeing to accept a material benefit from a foreign intelligence service as well as aggravated arson.

‘A fifth man, Dmitrijus Paulauska, 22, has been charged with having information about terrorist acts.’

Prosecutors believe Earl was working on behalf of the Russian state (Picture: Getty Images)

Reeves and Paulauska appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today, where they were not required to enter any pleas to the charges.

They will join the three other defendants for a hearing at the Old Bailey on May 10.

The head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command described the charges and the investigation as ‘highly significant’.

Commander Dominic Murphy added: ‘Not only are the charges that have been authorised by the CPS extremely serious, but it is also the first time that we have arrested, and now charged anyone using the powers and legislation brought in under the National Security Act.’

He said the public could be reassured that the Met do not believe there is any wider threat to them in relation to the case.

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