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

FILE PHOTO: Verdict hearing of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, in Moscow
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((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).)

(Reuters) - 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.

(Compiled by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Daniel Wallis)