Who is Paul Whelan?

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Video screenshot (captured by the US Embassy & Consulates in Russia)

By Sunaina Madgula, CRRI intern

“Russia says it caught James Bond on a spy mission. In reality, they abducted Mr. Bean on holiday,” Paul Whelan told the court in October 2019. As for the Russian authorities, he is a US spy. According to his family, he simply wanted to attend his former colleague’s wedding. So, who is Paul Whelan?

On June 15, 2020, Paul Whelan, a possessor of US, British, Canadian and Irish passports, was charged with espionage and sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment. The sentence comes into effect on June 26, and he technically could appeal it. But, as reported by BBC quoting Whelan’s lawyer, he would rather focus on a potential prisoner swap. A spokesperson of Global Affairs Canada stated in an email to CTV News that Russia was using its “judicial system as a political tool.” However, the foreign agency has not issued any separate statements on the issue. In his interview with the same news outlet, Paul’s twin brother David who lives in Canada praised the Canadian Embassy in Moscow for being “terrific,” visiting his brother and providing him with fresh fruit and vegetables. At the same time, he seemed to be dissatisfied with the Canadian Government for not properly defending the Canadian citizen.

Prior to his detention in Russia, the ex-US Marine who had been dismissed from the Marine Corps for misconduct, Paul Whelan held a director of global security position at BorgWarner, an automotive industry components and parts supplier. He travelled to Russia several times and maintained an intermittent presence on Russian Social media where he approximately had 70 contacts. On December 28, 2018, Whelan was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service. They allegedly caught him red-handed with a computer flash drive containing a list of all the employees at a classified Russian security agency. Whelan dismissed those accusations saying that he thought it had holiday pictures. 


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