Lawyer: Former US pilot could have been lured to Australia

SYDNEY (AP) – A former United States military pilot accused of training Chinese aviators could have been lured from China to Australia as part of a U.S. plan to extradite him to his homeland, his lawyer said Monday.

In a 2016 indictment from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., unsealed 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 applying for an appropriate license.

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

Boston-born Duggan, 54, has been in custody in Australia since October and appeared in a Sydney court Monday by video link from a prison cell for a brief hearing about a U.S. application to extradite him.

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

“It’s striking to us that a sequence of events like that could occur,” Miralis said. “We are exploring at this stage whether he was lured back to Australia by the U.S., where the U.S. knew he would be in a jurisdiction where he would be capable of being extradited back.”

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 some 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.

His next court appearance is set for May 1.

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