Ex-Marine fighter pilot accused of training Chinese aviators can be extradited to US, Australian judge rules

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  • A Sydney judge has ruled that former U.S. Marine Corps pilot Daniel Duggan can be extradited to the United States on allegations he illegally trained Chinese aviators.
  • Duggan will remain in custody awaiting extradition. His lawyers say they will make submissions to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on why the pilot should not be surrendered.
  • Duggan served in the U.S. Marines for 12 years before immigrating to Australia in 2002. Prosecutors say he conspired with others to provide training to Chinese military pilots in 2010 and 2012, and possibly at other times, without applying for an appropriate license.

A Sydney judge on Friday ruled that former U.S. Marine Corps pilot Daniel Duggan 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 the Boston-born 55-year-old 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.

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"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.

Dreyfus’ 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."

Saffrine Duggan speaks outside Downing Central Court in Sydney on May 24, 2024, where her husband Daniel will appear.

Saffrine Duggan speaks outside Downing Central Court in Sydney on May 24, 2024, where her husband Daniel will appear. A Sydney judge ruled that former U.S. Marine Corps pilot Daniel Duggan can be extradited to the United States on allegations he illegally trained Chinese aviators, leaving the Australian attorney-general Duggan's last hope of remaining in Australia. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

"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 U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., unsealed 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 license.

Prosecutors say Duggan received about nine payments totaling around $61,000 and international travel from another conspirator for what was sometimes described as "personal development training."

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

The indictment says Duggan traveled to the U.S., 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 United States, which unfairly singled him out.

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