Former Marine case jailed for goon skin

In the room 3333 of the Metropole Hotel in Moscow, Russian intelligence officials exploded as Paul Whelan was preparing for a friend's wedding.

The American disappeared without a trace for three days, until his twins announced in a news report that his brother was accused of goon skin.

That prompted New Year's Eve 2018 and the adoption of the four Western governments, putting the pressure on relations with Russia already diminished after the Cold War.

About 18 months later, the whale goon skin - acquiring the secrets of the Russian state - was convicted - after a brief trial was held behind closed doors.

The former U.S. Marine - who also has British, Irish, and Canadian citizenship - has always stressed his innocence and described himself as a victim of "flashy, thin Russian politics" this week in court.

While his family is appealing for him to be brought home, authorities in Moscow suspect that the Michigan man is a pawn in a political game and still exchange prisoners.

Harsh justice

On June 15, the Chief Justice took just 1 minute and 20 seconds to reach the keywords of his decision.

"From Moscow City Court ... Paul Nicholas Whelan Finds Guilt," reads from a typed sheet, stating that the 16-year sentence provides for a high-security facility for the most dangerous criminals.

The judge addressed the defendant standing in a glass cage protected by two FSB security officers in a black ballet. Viewed from wooden courtroom benches, there are ambassadors from the US, Britain, and Canada, in socially distant and medical face masks.

"Wrestler, do you understand the sentence?" He asked.

The glasses he wore for every court attendance, the side parting and the blue auctor look American, giving him a clean, middle-aged librarian look.

His Russian was not even there.

"Nothing, your honor," the 50-year-old protested, sending an interpreter upstairs to explain his fate. Three judges marched out of the courtroom.

It was a flat, abrupt end to the goon skin trial, which took place in some of the closed hearings. Moscow's Covid-19 lockdown secretly prevented action in the thicker layer, preventing the press and public from the building until the final verdict was reached.

James Bond or Mr. Bean?
When I first saw Pahalan in court, a year ago, he packed a weak lunch and a prison card in his chest with a brown cardboard box. He was surrounded by FSB guards and faces.

State TV crews are hanging out in the hallway for their shots, already referring to the accuser as "American goofy."

Paul Whelen has been brought in for months on numerous custody hearings and appeals, and we are squeezed in almost every time. Although we were only allowed to attend the opening remarks, we managed to pull off a lot of conversations with him.

However, the first day - in a cage, with a dozen cameras trained on him - he was under pressure and talked a little.

Almost two months have passed since his arrest, and he said he was fighting "fine." But when I asked about the story, his eyes ran toward the guard. "If I do this, I'll be on a bad path," Whelan told me. "They don't want me talking to you."

It was revealed that a member of his defense team had been pressured into admitting to the FSB and had been tried many times without his lawyers.

Olga Carloway told me last summer, "[They say], 'There is no hope for you. Tell us the truth. You are a detective. You are guilty.'

The American refused, and as his custody time was repeatedly extended, he gradually increased the folder in court.

Wheelan, who was head of global security for the American car parts company at the time of his arrest, began describing the goon skin allegation as "ridiculous" and announced that he had been tried in "kangaroo court". Prepare a speech for each session, write it on a sheet of paper and cover it with a prison censor.

"Russia says that James Bond was caught on the goon skin mission," Whelan declared one day as we await a judge. "In fact, he kidnapped Mr. Bean on vacation."

By then, we were informed that the Americans had visited Russia many times. On his latest trip, in December 2018, he was in Moscow for a Russian ex-Marine's fellow ex-Marine wedding. But Whelen never came to the ceremony. He was arrested in his room just hours before some other wedding guests showed up around the Kremlin grounds.

So, during a court hearing at the end of last year, I raised my voice to ask him once again against the wall of bail seekers.

He paused a little before calling back.

Whelan told me that a friend of his hotel had been manipulated that evening, "I have not given you permission to give details, but I can tell you that I am set up.

When Whelen was arrested, FSB found the USB drive in his pocket. Now he said his friend had put the device in his pocket and he could not comprehend it without it.

"That guy was an FSB officer. He's known me for ten years," he said.

"There was no reason for him to be in my room and he had no reason to give me any equipment."

When the judges returned to court, Whelan's frustration for being in jail was once again out.

"I can talk to you out loud, your honor" he shouted from the cage. "As my cousins ​​in England have said, this is absolute supremacy."

The judge ordered the TV cameras to be removed from the court at the time. Filming has been discontinued at all future hearings to prevent future protests.

'Red Hand'

Paul Whelan was convicted long ago by the Russian government.

Two weeks after his arrest, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced he was holding the American "red-handed" while committing "concrete and illegal acts."

The matter was immediately big news, which only escalated when it was revealed that the wrestler was a citizen of four countries.

Born in Canada to British parents of Irish heritage, he later relocated to the US, resulting in many passports.

Beginning in 2019, the drama of his now multi-national arrest is developing against a hostile political theme, in which Soviet sanctions on the Ukraine crisis and East-West tensions have not been felt since the Soviet era.

Nine months ago, Britain accused former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal of poisoning the streets of Salisbury. At the same time, Washington is accused of focusing on Moscow in its election.

So when the plight of Whelan was made public, there were ulation assumptions that he might be human collateral

The FSB has already dropped the case to be in court.

A source at Russia's Rosebolt news agency quoted Velen as working directly for the US Intelligence Department, obtaining a staff list at "one of Russia's top-secret agencies". The report said the information was of "serious interest" to Americans, and that Whelan had been cultivating potential contacts online for more than a decade.

In Russia, the Going Charity proceedings are not only heard in secret, but defense attorneys have to sign contracts that do not expose the entire case. So there is no evidence - wiretap or surveillance footage was made public on a case by case basis.

In the case of the whale, his protection team was included in the hiring and payment of the Russian state. His family decided not to replace him, arguing that the bill was "too many resources for zero impact" in excess of $ 150,000 (1 121,000).

Human rights advocate Ivan Pavlov said, "security, provocation and fraud, this is the weapon of our opponents."

He represents Russia, which has been accused of selling secrets mostly in the West, and said the number of such cases has increased significantly since the political climate in 2014 cooled again.

The lawyer warned that the FSB was "the most powerful secret service, not just in Russia," and would use its own experts to investigate any evidence to the court.

"If you're stuck in something like this, you're in the most difficult story of your life," says Ivan Pavlov. "It's very hard to mount a defense."

The connection to Russia
Paul Whalen's journey in Russia began a decade ago.

"This is 'Labanca', where the KGB locked our gooey soups in the basement !!", he quipped in 2007 on a private website.

The image is the headquarters of Russia's infamous security services, now known as the FSB.

Eleven years later, its officers take him there for interrogation.

The first photographs of a whale went to Moscow while working with the US Army in Iraq. That year he told a Marine News site that he had taken advantage of a two-week vacation abroad program for those with long deployment.

Whalen urged him to visit Russia, explaining that the plan was "an opportunity to travel around the world ... and experience the diversity of the culture" for a lonely person like me.

Since his arrest, the Marine Corps has been discharged for misconduct in 2008, revealing that his twin brother David was "absolutely shocked".

David tells the BBC from Canada, "He was always positive about the [Marines] experience. There was a Marine flag underneath the American flag on my parents' property."

Still, Paul, unknown to his close friends, went to court-martial to try to steal more than $ 10,000 from the U.S. government.

Backstage with this scandal, he went to Moscow for the first time.

"After growing up during the Cold War, it was my dream to visit Russia and meet some false Russians who have kept the Western world at bay for so long !!" Whalen has since quit again on his archived website.

Its pages document travel, with sightings and exclamation points filled with captions.

A decade later, he received messages from new Russian tourists that the new discoveries show surprises like almost identical children.

The content of the website is of interest to Paul Whelan's contacts, colleagues, and family members who have "made friends everywhere" as a global traveler and are interested in Russian culture.

"I remember once making a short speech saying, 'You travel a lot for work. Where do you travel for entertainment?' Former colleague Scooty Fiat told the BBC.

"He said Russia!" And he was surprised by her answer. "They said it was beautiful and they like the cold and they have a lot of friends."

The entire section of his old website is devoted to the beautiful cartoon character Cherbashka, who describes the big-eared, wide-eyed creature as "a good thing to come out of the Soviet era." Another link leads to the Homemade Guide to Cyrillic Alphabet and some original first words in Russian.

The pages also reveal his first friends in the Russian military.

After Russia, anonymous sources cited in the press reported that the CIA had selected candidates for intelligence for Paul Whelan. Noteworthy, according to one such report, is that he only chose to befriend men and not "pretty Russian girls".

Whalen befriended the young soldiers of America. His website describes his "respect and admiration" for the three Naval Academy graduates who have just joined the Marines.

He did not hide his interests and encounters.

In 2009, he took his parents to a country tour where he said he met his young friends in military uniform.

Meanwhile, the front page of his website invites visitors to click on the image of a Russian young soldier to learn more about his "interests and military service". Link runs Maxim, revealing that her new friend Paul Whelan is helping her with the English she wants to study at the university.

The Russian spent two days on a "Moscow trip", eating sushi and caviar-filled pancakes.

Friends in strange places

Velen more people are using the social networking service, VK has Russian friends.

A scroll after his arrest, soon after his arrest, revealed almost all the men - much younger than him. Some had obvious military ties - including photographs in uniform - if not all, and no one who responded to my messages saw any reason to doubt Whalen's intentions.

Someone told me that when he first approached the American, he called me a student and a supermarket night guard. The two met each other for a few hours while Velen was visiting Russia in 2008 and many friends in different cities.

"I don't believe that Paul is a goon," the man wrote to me. "... I don't know that foreign gooey soups are interesting."

Another man gave his friend the same year to see his own city. He had no clear connection to the military and the American "did not request to see anything suspicious," he joked to me via VK)

The Moscow Hair Salon, meanwhile, contacted Velen on Instagram five years ago. He talked about going abroad and never met.

A VK friend in the military said that the American first got confused when he was a cadet and the two chatted online two or three times a week.

"He looked good and was impressed with our country, its history, and our traditions and people!" The man responded to my inquiries and said that he had his own interest before the maritime war in Iraq.

He had no idea his friend had been arrested. "No way? He's a kindhearted soul! If he's a detective, I'm Michael Jackson !!!!" She wrote.

Whelan's alleged man is one of his oldest acquaintances in Russia. He is also a Service Intelligence Officer.

Defense attorneys have revealed some details of the men's affair in the case, including how the American visited his friend's home in Sergeev Posad outside Moscow for the "saunas and kebabs" for the winter before his arrest. Is.

The FSB stated that he owed about 80,000 rubles ($ 1,147; £ 930) on Whelan, which was an advance payment to intelligence. The defense team said the Russian was seeking a loan from his wife to buy gifts as part of his trap.

The Whelan family eventually got a name and a picture.

Since he is still working for the FSB, I can't call him "Dmitry" because I don't recognize him. But Whelan was openly chatting with relatives about his friend, including the "FSB School."

"" Dimitri, "said hello!", Whelan told his parents after a FaceTime chat with Russian. If he tries to recruit a person for the US Intelligence Department it seems unusual behavior.

It is possible that he introduced his parents to Dmitry on a tour of Russia in 2009, which he did not believe.

At home in January 2018 with a message from Moscow - a free holiday to use his air miles - the American visited a restaurant that his agent-friend, along with the Kremlin museums, also described as a British pub.

A year later, just days before his arrest, Mr. Whelan took "Dimitri" and another man to a restaurant in front of his hotel for Christmas dinner. He sketched a picture of his guests, smiling "Dimitri" with a glass of wine and taking on a dirty juicy steak.

Labeling a "donor with a dove" or associates, he confused the image with a third Russian friend - who also knows how to transfer classified intelligence.

After getting passwords for Paul's computers and trolling through their files, "it sounds very believable," his brother admits.

He said his brother's VK messages were deleted after his arrest.

"He has friends with military backgrounds in other countries, and I think this is a social thing," argues David Pahlan. "The FSB is no big deal until it gets caught."

Paul Whelen's attorneys have confirmed that they have been watching him for some time now and are monitoring his communications.

A recent newspaper report showed that the American FSB had come to the attention a decade earlier, when he began "actively" contacting Russian troops, according to a comradescent source.

But the goon skin case is entirely based on Wallen's relationship to an officer, with all evidence gathered in 2018, shortly before his arrest.

"If it were an independent court, they would only come to a decision - not guilty," his lawyer Vladimir Jerebiankov said after the verdict. He said the evidence was only investigated by "incompetent and interested parties."

Whelan said he was "always possible" with Evan Pavlov and FSB intelligence officials.

Advocates say, "The temptation is high: rise to rank; get promoted; to more stars in your ebook." "Are FSB careers made this way? People rally behind mushroom cases like this after the rain."

Officials usually spend their time calling it "calf raising" before reaching the goal.

If so, Paul Whelan seems to be blind to the danger.

In an email exchange during his initial visit to Moscow, a relative quipped: "Don't get in trouble. We can't get you out, haha!"

"I'll be with the FSB people, so be fine!", The American wrote.

Spy mania

The rise of East-West tensions has made the Goon move more complicated and more urgent in recent years.

After the Salisbury poisoning in early 2018, more than 100 Russian diplomats who were identified as intelligence agents were expelled from embassies around the world. Russia has responded with a massive boycott of Western diplomats.

At the time, an ambassador told me that the move put tough competition on Moscow's goon skin capacity. But the reverse is also true.

Even earlier there were signs of problems.

Almost a year before Paul Whelan's arrest, a Norwegian goon living in the same central Moscow hotel was arrested. A retired border guard, Freud Berg, has been recruited from Norway's Military Intelligence Agency to provide cash and goon skin reference covers.

His arrest and 14 years in prison led to his return, revealing that he was using high-risk goon skin for civilians who had no diplomatic cover. There are also allegations that Norway is under pressure to obtain information from its allies in NATO.

Former CIA officials have rejected the suggestion that Whelen might have done something like this without a diplomatic immunity: the idea of ​​a retired Russian official issuing a statement that his arrest was the result of US intelligence "a big failure."

The US embassy and government are very vocal about Whelan's arrest. Ambassador John Sullivan told me last week that "Paul Whelen was acquitted," calling the investigation "a mockery of justice."

In the case of Freud Berg, the Norwegian government remained silent.

While Paul Whelan’s Marine Show reveals his disrespect for some parts of his life that are not even known to his family, his supporters call the allegation of robbery positive.

"The intelligence community does not use anyone with that past, especially when you are sent into a very difficult environment," argues American Family Lawyer Ryan Fahey, who cited intelligence from his days. Counter-goon skin cases are ongoing.

"It won't happen," Fahey believes. “Trust is the most important thing when you’re there.

Life of Lefortovo

A friend who didn't want to name me was "a little strange", and liked to "push the line a little bit." He wondered if some comment, or joke, was spelled wrong. Whelan's own defense attorney once pointed to that possibility.

His former colleague, Scotty Fiatzam, found Whalen serious and helpful but insisted on using heavily armed guards when he visited a factory in Mexico and posted outside the restaurant.

"I don't know if it's a machine to show," Fiat said. "But it's very unusual."

His recommended readings include a long list of Cold War thrillers written by Tom Clancy on the Harry Potter books and Whale's old website with War and Peace.

But there is nothing appealing about prison life in Leftover. Whalen enjoyed the element of danger of hanging out with intelligence officials and hurting the FSB.

"Oatmeal, some days it goes straight to the toilet," Frodberg wrote to me from Northern Norway at the FSB prison. He has now returned home after a prisoner-swap.

His own cellmates in Lephotovo joked that the prisoners would be fed a morning meal.

"We never see or meet other inmates. When we go to a meeting, the prisoners hide from each other," Berg recounts the solitary routine of a K-shaped prison, now surrounded by tall outer walls against a Soviet apartment. Blocks...

Paul Whelan is undergoing a revamped section where the cells include hot water, fridge, TV, and toilet, Norwegian said. But space occupied 9.5 square meters between two inmates and an hour a day on the exercise terrace.

Soulmates bathe together in the basement once a week. There is a light in the cell 24/7.

The wrestler and his family say the letters were withdrawn after researchers and parcels returned months later. He is not allowed to make phone calls for 16 months. And contributing to her discomfort was chronic pain from the hernia, which eventually caused a sore throat, and resulted in emergency surgery.

Swap shop?
High-security prison, Paul Whelan Lefortovo, has not yet been released.

His lawyers plan to appeal against the ruling, but other big powers are already in effect. The moment the American was convicted, the attention turned to the exchange of potential prisoners.

Paul Whelan said he wanted Yaroshenko and Bout, two high-ranking Russian prisoners in the US because the court kicked me and my microphone out of the room. "That's the only reason they did it," he said.

Lawyer Vladimir Jerebiankov will soon be saying the same thing, but the FSB says that now everyone has a plan for swag.

"No one is hiding. Everyone is talking about this, all the bosses."

So the prisoner, who has always described himself as a political hostage, is now looking for politicians to negotiate his release.

So far, all signs indicate that Moscow is starting with a high bid - arms dealer Victor Bout, who has served 25 years in the US, and Constantin Yaroshenko, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for drug trafficking.

On Wednesday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman called for the release of Yaroshenko and "other humanity" in Washington and falsely accused other "Russians".

The two men have been repeatedly convicted in an open and fair trial, the US said.

"We are not looking for an exchange, we are seeking justice for Paul," U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan asserted, delivering the verdict in Moscow City Court, out of the wall of microphones and cameras.

The Pahala family is already seeking action after the sentence of his brother David "Gut Punch".

He knew that it took months of complicated and secret diplomacy to secure the appropriate exchange for Freud Berg, which eventually included Russian agents in the prison in Lithuania. Norway has not seized gooey soups that have been found guilty for trade or the US.

David Whelan told me, "I'm trying to focus on immediate goals, so I'm not distracted by how horrible it is to spend 16 years behind bars". Going back to his prison cell.

"I think Paul will work very hard. It's an extraordinary period."

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