Officials with Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, the top KGB successor agency, said Monday in a statement that Paul Whelan, 48, had been taken into custody Friday "during an act of espionage." The charge can carry a prison term between 10 and 20 years if Whelan is convicted, according to Russia's TASS news agency.
“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being,” Whelan’s family members said Tuesday in a statement. “His innocence is undoubted, and we trust that his rights will be respected.”
Family members said they learned about Whelan’s arrest through media reports three days after they last heard from him.
"I was looking for any stories about dead Americans in Moscow, so in a way, it was better than finding out that he had died," Paul Whelan's brother, David Whelan, told The Associated Press.
He said his brother had taken a group of wedding guests on a tour of Kremlin museums Friday morning. The last time anyone heard from him was around 5 p.m. that day, David Whelan told the AP.
“It was extraordinarily out of character,” he said.
Paul Whelan works as the director of global security for Michigan-based automotive component supplier BorgWarner, company spokeswoman Kathy Graham confirmed in a statement.
“He is responsible for overseeing security at our facilities in Auburn Hill, Michigan, and at other company locations around the world,” Graham said.
She told CNN the company, which also learned about Paul Whelan's arrest through media reports, has no facilities in Russia.
“BorgWarner has been in contact with the relevant U.S. government authorities in order to help our employee and the U.S. government,” Graham said.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman quoted Wednesday by TASS said U.S. consular officials have been granted access to Paul Whelan, the AP reported. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said earlier Wednesday that officials hoped Russia would grant the U.S. consular access to Paul Whelan to give officials a chance to see him and learn more about the charges against him.