Paul Whelan: Is American held in Moscow really a United States spy?

Paul Whelan: Is American held in Moscow really a United States spy?

On Friday, the United Kingdom said it was also trying to gain access to Whelan for a consular visit.

Russia's Federal Security Service said on December 31 that it had detained Whelan while he was allegedly carrying out an act of espionage in Moscow.

Whelan, 48, could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of spying. He is director of global security at BorgWarner, a US auto parts maker based in MI.

Whelan's family has said that he was visiting Moscow for the wedding of a retired Marine and is innocent of the espionage charges against him.

The account by Rosbalt has not been reported in other media and has generated some skepticism.

Russian security expert Pavel Felgenhauer is perplexed by the incident, and believes the arrest is "suspicious". This detail, made public after his arrest, was a surprise for the family.

Separately, Irish broadcaster RTE reported Whelan also holds an Irish passport and is seeking consular assistance from Ireland, as well. Late past year, Trump told Reuters that he would be willing to intervene in the prosecution of the chief financial officer of Huawei, whom American prosecutors are attempting to extradite from Canada on charges that she defrauded US banks as part of a scheme to sell banned telecom equipment to Iran.

In a statement issued on Friday on behalf of the Whelan family, Whelan's brother, David, said, "We are relieved and very pleased to know that staff of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow have been given consular access to Paul and confirmed that he is safe".

Since leaving the USA military, Whelan had worked as a global security executive with US companies, had visited Russia and had developed a network of Russian acquaintances.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hunt said he was "extremely worried" about Mr Whelan, adding: "Individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage".

"We are giving every support we can, but we don't agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games", he continued. "We're not ruling out any theories at all at this stage as to why this might have happened".

Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday confirmed that Whelan also holds Irish citizenship and said it also is requesting consular access to him in Moscow.

Nance said he suspects Russian intelligence officers have been watching Whelan for years, wondering if they could use him in some way and maybe trying to flip him. "In my appeal I am asking to change my client's measure of restraint from arrest to release on bail to the sum determined by the court".

As a rule, United States spies generally possess that diplomatic status; if they're arrested in a country that has poor relations with the USA, the worst that can happen is that they're forced to leave.

Whelan's family has denied he is a spy and said he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

Asked about Whelan, Canadian Global Affairs spokesman Richard Walker said "consular officials are aware that a Canadian citizen had been arrested in Russian Federation".

CBS suggested that the ex-Marine "is a pawn in Russia's play to get back one of its spies, Maria Butina", though the Russian student was not actually charged with espionage.

Whelan's brother, David Whelan, said in an interview Tuesday that he had no idea why his brother was targeted by the Russian security services.

Butina has become a cause celebre for Russian Federation - her face is being used as the profile picture on the Foreign Ministry's Facebook page - and the timing of Whelan's arrest has led to suggestions that he is being seen as a potential swap for her. The 30-year-old spent months in solitary confinement and complained of conditions close to torture, such as being deprived of sleep at night.

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