British man accused of orchestrating arson attack in London for Russia’s Wagner group

Details of the case - the first brought under new spy laws - can now be reported for the first time

Amy-Clare Martin
Crime Correspondent
Friday 26 April 2024 16:50 BST
Two suspects appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Friday (Rick Findler/PA)
Two suspects appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Friday (Rick Findler/PA) (PA Archive)

A British man is accused of masterminding an arson plot on a Ukraine-linked business in London after allegedly being recruited as a Russian spy.

Dylan Earl has been charged under the National Security Act 2023 - the first case to involve alleged offences under the new spy legislation.

Four other men, Paul English, Nil Mensah, Jake Reeves and Dmitrijus Paulauska have also been charged in connection with the case, it can now be revealed.

Earl is 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, prosecutors say.

Court documents show he is alleged to be connected to the proscribed terrorist group the Wagner Group.

The 20-year-old, from Leicestershire, is accused of organising and paying for an arson attack on two units on an industrial estate Leyton, east London on 20 March.

He is alleged to have targeted businesses which were linked to Ukraine in order to benefit the Russian state, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The blaze required 60 firefighters to bring it under control and the alleged target of the fire is labelled as “Mr X” in the charges.

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

“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.”

Reeves and Paulaska appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday, where they were not required to enter pleas.

Reeves was remanded in custody and Paulaska was granted conditional. Both will next appear at the Old Bailey on 10 May along with the three other defendants.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Dmitrijus Paulauska (left) and Jake Reeves appearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Dmitrijus Paulauska (left) and Jake Reeves appearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court (PA)

Commander Dominic Murphy, Head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command said: “This is a highly significant moment and investigation for us.

“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.

“We have spoken publicly in recent times about various threats linked to national security that we have been facing, and the increase in operational activity required across counter terrorism policing to meet these.

“While these are very serious allegations, I want to reassure the public that we do not believe there to be any wider threat to them in connection with this matter.

“This investigation remains ongoing, but now that charges have been brought about I would urge everyone to respect the criminal justice process and not to speculate or comment further in relation to this case.”

The National Security Act, which became law in December last year, is legislation to toughen laws on hostile acts against the UK, including espionage, interference in our political system, sabotage, and assassination.

Earl is charged with aggravated arson and assisting a foreign intelligence service contrary to section three of the act. While Reeves is accused of aggravated arson agreeing to accept a material benefit from a foreign intelligence service, also contrary to the new act.

English and Mensah are both charged with aggravated arson reckless as to whether life will be endangered, contrary to section one of the Criminal Damage Act 1971.

Paulauska is accused of having information about terrorist acts, contrary to section 38B of the Terrorism Act 2000.

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