British ‘spy’ accused of receiving USB stick with ‘state secrets,’ lawyer says

British 'spy' accused of receiving USB stick with 'state secrets,' lawyer says

Investigators have accused a British citizen held on espionage charges in Russia of receiving a USB stick that contained state secrets, his lawyer has said. 

Paul Whelan, 48, believed the USB stick had photographs and other information about a church he had visited, lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov said. FSB security agents swooped in and seized him before he could see what was on the flash drive, he added.

Russian media previously claimed he was grabbed while receiving a USB stick at the Metropole Hotel near the Kremlin.

In the first public appearance since he was detained on December 28, Moscow city court refused an appeal to grant bail to Mr Whelan, leaving him pre-trial confinement in Lefortovo jail until at least the end of February. He faces 10 to 20 years in prison.

Mr Whelan, head of security for a Michigan auto parts company who holds American, British, Canadian and Irish passports, appeared calm and well-fed. Dressed in a blue shirt, dark trousers and rimless eyeglasses, the former Marine and police officer declined to answer shouted questions, instead whispering with his lawyers through an opening in the thick glass defendant’s cage. 

A source told The Telegraph last week that Mr Whelan is accused of gathering information about “classified military structures”.

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