NOVI, Mich. – The Novi man arrested in Russia and charged with espionage might have some extra help in his bid to get out of jail.
At the time of his arrest, Paul Whelan had four passports, from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Ireland. That means those four countries are stepping in to help.
Whelan, 48, had four passports because of his complicated lineage, Local 4 has learned. He's getting support services from all four governments.
Whelan is an American citizen, but he's also the son of British citizens. He was born in Canada and moved to the U.S., where he served in the military. He rose in the ranks of the Marines to staff sergeant and served during the Iraq War.
His military record shows he was discharged for bad conduct due to allegedly kiting checks.
Officials with the British Foreign Office said there is considerable concern for Whelan. They are working with the U.S., Ireland and Canada to offer him consular assistance. The U.S. is leading the effort.
The Whelan family has been vocal in his defense. Whelan's twin brother said he doesn't believe Whelan is a spy. The brother said Whelan only speaks rudimentary English.
The family put out a statement Friday, the first since loved ones were able to speak with Whelan on Wednesday over the phone. The conversation was set up after he met with the U.S. ambassador to Russia.
"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," the family's statement said. "Our focus remains on ensuring that Paul is safe, well-treated, has a good lawyer and is coming home. We urge the U.S. Congress and the State Department to help on Paul's behalf to secure his release and return him home soon."
Unlike in the U.S., Russia's holiday season runs into next week. Local 4 has learned there could be more court action in his case next week.