Sydney judge allows extradition of US ex-fighter pilot accused of training Chinese

24 May 2024, 17:34

Australia US Pilot
Australia US Pilot. Picture: PA

Magistrate Daniel Reiss ordered Boston-born Daniel Duggan, 55, to remain in custody awaiting extradition.

A Sydney judge has ruled that former a US Marine Corps pilot can be extradited to the United States on allegations that he illegally trained Chinese aviators, leaving the attorney general as Duggan’s last hope of remaining in Australia.

Magistrate Daniel Reiss ordered Boston-born Daniel Duggan, 55, to remain in custody awaiting extradition.

While his lawyers said they had no legal grounds to challenge the magistrate’s ruling that Duggan was eligible for extradition, they will make submissions to Attorney General Mark Dreyfus on why the pilot should not be surrendered.

“The attorney will give us sufficient time, I’m quite sure, to ventilate all of the issues that under the Extradition Act are not capable of being run in an Australian court,” Duggan’s lawyer, Bernard Collaery, told reporters outside court.

Mr Dreyfus’s office said in a statement the government does not comment on extradition matters.

Duggan’s wife and mother of his six children, Saffrine Duggan, said the extradition court hearing was “simply about ticking boxes”.

“Now, we respectfully ask the attorney general to take another look at this case and to bring my husband home,” she told a gathering of reporters and supporters outside court.

The pilot has spent 19 months in maximum security prison since he was arrested in 2022 at his family home in the state of New South Wales.

In a 2016 indictment from the US District Court in Washington, DC, unsealed in late 2022, prosecutors say Duggan conspired with others to provide training to Chinese military pilots in 2010 and 2012, and possibly at other times, without applying for an appropriate licence.

Prosecutors say Duggan received about nine payments totalling around 88,000 Australian dollars (£47,875) and international travel from another conspirator for what was sometimes described as “personal development training”.

Duggan served in the US Marines for 12 years before emmigrating to Australia in 2002. In January 2012, he gained Australian citizenship, choosing to give up his US citizenship in the process.

The indictment says Duggan travelled to the United States, China and South Africa, and provided training to Chinese pilots in South Africa.

Duggan has denied the allegations, saying they were political posturing by the US, which unfairly singled him out.

By Press Association

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