Lawyer: The former US pilot may have been lured to Australia

SYDNEY (AP) — A former U.S. military pilot accused of training Chinese airmen may have been lured from China to Australia as part of a U.S. plan to extradite him home, his lawyer said Monday.

In a 2016 US District Court indictment in Washington, DC, unsealed as of late 2022, prosecutors say Daniel Duggan conspired with others to provide training to Chinese military pilots in 2010 and 2012, and possibly at other times, without requiring an appropriate license.

Prosecutors say Duggan received about nine payments totaling about AUD 88,000 ($61,000) and international travel from another conspirator for what was sometimes described as “personal development training”.

Duggan, 54, born in Boston, has been held in Australia since October and appeared in a Sydney court on Monday via video link from a prison cell for a brief hearing on a US extradition request.

His lawyer, Dennis Miralis, told reporters outside the court that Duggan returned from China in 2022 to work in Australia after receiving an Australian safety clearance for an aviation licence. A few days after his arrival, the authorization granted by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the nation’s main domestic spy agency, was removed, Miralis said.

“It’s surprising to us that such a sequence of events could occur,” Miralis said. “At this stage we are assessing whether he was lured back to Australia from the United States, where the United States knew he would be in a jurisdiction where extradition would be possible.”

Duggan served in the US Marines for 12 years before emigrating to Australia in 2002. In January 2012, he was granted Australian citizenship, choosing to renounce his US citizenship in the process.

The indictment alleges that Duggan traveled to the United States, China and South Africa and provided training for Chinese pilots in South Africa.

Duggan denied the allegations, saying they were political posturing on the part of the United States, which wrongly singled him out.

His next court appearance is set for May 1.

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