Novi man in prison in Russia loses job at BorgWarner

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Paul Whelan, a Novi man held on spying charges in Russia, has had his job back in Michigan eliminated.

Automotive parts supplier BorgWarner eliminated Whelan's job on Friday, company officials confirmed, as Whelan approaches the one-year anniversary of his arrest and imprisonment in Russia.

Paul Whelan

BorgWarner spokeswoman Kathy Graham said on Wednesday that Whelan's job as director of global security for the auto parts supplier was eliminated as part of corporate restructuring efforts announced in April.

"His position was eliminated as part of that," Graham said.

Graham said the company worked through the proper channels to notify Whelan's representatives of the termination as he remains in Russian custody.

Whelan worked for Auburn Hills-based BorgWarner since January 2017 and was responsible for overseeing security at facilities around the world.

BorgWarner doesn't have any operations in Russia, although it has customers there, company officials have said. Graham has said previously that she didn't think Whelan had traveled to Russia on the company's behalf since he started working there.

Whelan’s family has said the 49-year-old Novi man was in Russia for a friend’s wedding when he was arrested Dec. 28 in a Moscow hotel room and charged with espionage.

His lawyers have said Whelan was framed and had no knowledge of the classified data on a flash drive he was handed as part of the alleged setup.

Whelan's brother, David, said in an email on Wednesday that Paul's health has declined and his life has "unraveled, collateral damage in the Russian Federation's geopolitical gamesmanship."

David said the firing from BorgWarner "increases the strain on our family's ability to keep some semblance of his former life ready for when he returns home."

David also said his brother will have another detention hearing around Christmas Day.

"Without action in Washington, D.C., to secure his freedom, his life will continue to unravel and Paul will end up spending many more months as a political prisoner of the Russian government," David said in the email.

In October, the U.S. House unanimously approved a resolution urging Russia to produce “credible” evidence against Whelan or “immediately” release him.

A former U.S. Marine, Whelan has been held in Lefortovo Prison for several months without Russian authorities presenting “evidence of supposed wrongdoing,” the resolution said.

Whelan's family and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow have raised concerns about his declining health due to a hernia, as well as his treatment and isolation by authorities in Russia. A trial is not expected until early 2020.