Paul Nicholas Whelan, a 48-year-old resident of Novi, Michigan, was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service (“FSB”) in Moscow on December 28, 2018, and has been accused of committing espionage against Russia.
Paul was born in Canada to British parents who are of Irish descent. In the early 1970s, he moved to the US and lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his family.
From a young age, Paul was encouraged by his parents to travel to experience different cultures. He traveled to many countries, including a solo trip to Europe as a teenager.
Paul was interested in serving his community from a young age. After taking up courses at university, Paul completed police training and worked with various police departments in Michigan. Paul always made a point of visiting local police stations in the towns he visited, even later in life, including several stations in many far away places.
In 1994, Paul was called again to service and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Reserves, as he began working in the IT department of Kelly Services at their global headquarters in Michigan. Paul’s Marine Reserve unit was deployed to Iraq in 2004 where he served two tours of duty, transitioning to active duty along the way.
Upon completion of his service in Iraq, Paul returned to work at Kelly Services, this time in their Global Security department. Paul’s work increasingly involved global travel, and Paul made friends in many countries across the globe. In 2017, Paul began work with auto parts maker Borg Warner as their Global Security Director, and continued his regular worldwide travel to visit their many plants.
Paul has always enjoyed travel, and often augments work trips with a few vacation days in order to visit certain sites or explore neighboring countries. This was the case with Russia. Paul had initially visited the country while in the Marines, via an invitation extended to him in 2006 by a Lt. Colonel about to take up a post at the US Embassy in Moscow.
Over the next 12 years, he visited Russia about 6 more times. Typically, his visits took him to Moscow, and it was this familiarity with the city that led his friend, also a former Marine, to ask Paul to participate in the friend’s wedding in Moscow.
Paul travelled to Moscow on December 22, 2018, and subsequently met with his former Marine friend in addition to other Russians with whom he cultivated friendships on prior visits. During his visit, Paul led tours for the American wedding guests around Moscow. Then, on December 28, Paul disappeared. When he did not show up at the wedding, his friend was immediately concerned and filed a missing person report to the US Embassy in Moscow.
Receiving this news in the US, the Whelan family was frantic with worry. The first news the family received about the fate of their son and brother came three days after they found out he was missing, when Paul’s twin brother, David Whelan, came across a Reuters story that put out the barest facts: American citizen Paul Whelan had been arrested by the FSB in Moscow. Later that was elaborated on; the charge was espionage against Russia.
Since then, few verifiable facts have come to light. The FSB has not publicly disclosed the factual predication of the charges against Paul. Paul has been prevented from signing the Privacy Act Waiver, a document the State Department needs to advocate publicly for Paul. He has been prevented from signing a Power of Attorney, which is needed to manage his affairs and to arrange for a lawyer of his own choosing, rather than the lawyer the FSB has appointed on Paul’s behalf, who has made numerous public statements against Paul’s interest.
In short, the Russians are currently using American rules and protections against Paul, and his family needs this stonewalling to be addressed at the highest levels of government.
In addition, while the family is obtaining excellent support from Consular Affairs, other elements of the U.S. Government have informed the family that because the circumstances and details of Paul’s arrest are not clear, the trigger for additional family support from the U.S. government has not occurred. As a result, the family has not been able to contribute to or receive information from the remainder of the federal government.
Our strongest desire is to know that the U.S. Government as a whole is doing everything it can do to secure Paul’s release and the family does not currently have that comfort.