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Factbox: FACTBOX Paul Whelan, ex-U.S. Marine jailed in Russia on spying charges


Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, stands inside a defendants’ cage during his verdict hearing in Moscow, Russia June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

(This Dec. 8 story has been corrected to fix paragraph 8 to make clear Whelan was given a bad-conduct discharge from the Marine Corps, not a dishonourable discharge).

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian penal colony on espionage charges, did not figure in a prisoner exchange on Thursday involving U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, despite months of speculation that he would be included.

Here are some facts about Whelan:

– Whelan was detained by agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in a room in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel, near the Kremlin, on Dec. 28, 2018.

– Investigators said he was a spy for military intelligence with a rank of colonel or higher, and had been caught red-handed with a computer flash drive containing classified information.

– Whelan said he had been in Russia for a friend’s wedding and had been given the drive in a sting by a Russian friend. He said he had thought it contained holiday photos.

– After a trial held entirely behind closed doors that U.S. diplomats said was unfair and opaque, Whelan, now 52, was convicted of spying in 2020, and sentenced to 16 years in a maximum security jail. He is currently being held in the IK-17 penal colony in the Mordovia region, east of Moscow.

– Born in Ottawa, Canada, to British parents of Irish origin, Whelan later moved to Novi, Michigan, and is a national of all four countries.

– Whelan served with the Marine Corps Reserve from 2003-2008, much of the time as an administrative clerk in Iraq. At the end of that period, he was given a bad-conduct discharge for larceny and other lesser offences, after being found to have tried to steal $10,000.

– At the time of his arrest, Whelan was head of global security for BorgWarner, a Michigan car parts supplier.

– Last November, a Russian court rejected his request to be allowed to serve his sentence in the United States.