Ex-US Marine pilot can be extradited, Australian magistrate rules

Ex-US Marine pilot can be extradited, Australian magistrate rules

Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A Sydney magistrate ruled on Friday that former U.S. Marine Corps pilot Daniel Duggan can be extradited from Australia to face charges in the United States for training Chinese military pilots for aircraft carrier landings.

Duggan, 55, a naturalized Australian citizen, is facing US charges including money laundering and violating arms control laws by arranging for Chinese military pilots to train on aircraft carrier landings. He denies the charges.

Defendants have the right to seek review of the magistrate’s sentence within 15 days. The final decision on extradition rests with Australia’s Attorney General.

Outside court, his wife, Saffrin, said the family plans to appeal to Attorney General Mark Dreyfus to block extradition.

One of the seven co-conspirators named in the U.S. indictment is convicted Chinese hacker Su Bin, but Duggan’s lawyers say he has no connection to the hacking incident.

Duggan was arrested by the Australian Federal Police in rural New South Wales in October 2022, shortly after returning from China, where he had been living since 2014.

The same week, Britain warned former British defence officials not to train People’s Liberation Army pilots at South Africa’s flying school, where Duggan also worked.

Duggan, whose wife and six children are also Australian, has been held in a maximum-security prison since his arrest. Saffron held her hand against the glass window of the dock where Duggan was sitting in court on Friday.

Judge Daniel Rice said the conditions for extradition had been met. “Mr Duggan is entitled to extradition,” he said.

Mr Duggan’s legal team has previously argued there was no evidence the Chinese pilots he trained were military personnel and that he became an Australian citizen in January 2012, before the alleged crimes.

The U.S. government claims that Duggan lost his U.S. citizenship in 2016 when he signed documents renouncing his citizenship at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

In a filing with the attorney general, Mr Duggan’s lawyers wrote that Mr Duggan was barred from leaving China in 2014 and knew Su Bin as a talent broker for Chinese airline AVIC.

Su Bin pleaded guilty in 2016 to hacking into a major US defense contractor and stealing blueprints for US military aircraft.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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