Metro Detroit man detained in Russia on suspicion of spying

Posted at 9:56 AM, Jan 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-01 18:18:03-05

(CNN) — A U.S. citizen detained in Russia on accusations of spying is a retired Marine who was in Moscow for a wedding, and his detention has his family concerned about his welfare, his twin brother said Tuesday.

Paul Whelan, 48, of Novi, Michigan, was arrested Friday in Moscow on suspicion of carrying out an act of espionage, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has said. His family rejects the accusation.

"We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected," Whelan's brother, David Whelan, said in a statement released Tuesday to CNN.

Paul Whelan works in corporate security with US-based automotive components supplier BorgWarner, his brother said in a phone interview. Paul flew to Moscow on December 22 to attend a wedding ceremony for a fellow ex-Marine and a Russian woman, David Whelan said.

When Paul didn't arrive at the wedding on Friday, his friend messaged him but received no response, the brother said.

The family learned about Paul's detention only on Monday morning after media reports emerged, David Whelan said.

"Knowing that he's not dead, it weirdly really helps," David Whelan said. "When we couldn't get ahold of him initially, we were worried, and we are still worried now, but at least we know he is alive."

Paul Whelan was born in Canada to British parents, but lives in Michigan now and served multiple tours with the US Marine Corps in Iraq, his brother said. The US State Department has said is he is a US citizen.

The family has contacted congressional representatives, the US Embassy, and the State Department, he said.

Charge could bring up to 20 years in prison

The FSB, Russia's domestic intelligence agency, announced Whelan's arrest on Monday.

"The investigation department of the Federal Security Service of Russia initiated a criminal case against a US citizen under article 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The investigation is underway," the statement continued. Article 276 is espionage.

If found guilty, Whelan faces 10 to 20 years imprisonment, Russia's state-run news agency TASS reported. Further details about the reasons for or circumstances of his detention weren't immediately released.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs "formally notified" the United States of the detention, a US State Department spokesman said Monday.

"Russia's obligations under the Vienna Convention require them to provide consular access. We have requested this access and expect Russian authorities to provide it. Due to privacy considerations, we have no additional information to provide at this time," said a statement from the State Department.

Whelan's brother David posted a statement from the family regarding the detainment.


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