New info on former U.S. Marine accused of spying in Russia

Details on former Marine detained in Russia
Details on former Marine detained in Russia 01:58

The brother of Paul Whelan, a Michigan man detained in Russia, is rejecting Moscow's claim that Whelan is a spy. Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested on Friday and charged with espionage.

Whelan's twin brother David told CBS News that Whelan traveled to Russia on Dec. 22 for a friend's wedding. The last time David heard from his brother was on Friday. It was only through media reports Monday that the family discovered the 48-year-old had been detained.  

In a statement, Russia's federal security service said officers arrested Whelan in Moscow on Friday as he carried out a spy mission, but the arrest is fueling speculation of retaliation; Russian payback for the U.S. arresting Russian national Maria Butina on spy charges.

Since 2017 Whelan has worked for a Michigan-based auto parts company called BorgWarner, most recently as director of global security. Whelan spent 14 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. According to the military, he was discharged in 2008 for bad conduct related to larceny.

His brother told CBS News that Whelan had been to Russia several times before and knew how to avoid trouble. David Whelan said it was inconceivable that his brother could be considered a spy.

"He has a law enforcement background. He was a former U.S. Marine who served a number of tours in Iraq. He does corporate security. It's the sort of personality you wouldn't expect to be a lawbreaker of any sort. Let alone someone who's breaking spy laws," David said.

Whelan could spend up to two decades in prison if convicted of espionage. The State Department tells CBS News it is aware of the detention and is requesting access to Whelan.