Australian judge rules ex-U.S. Marine pilot can be extradited

A Sydney judge made a ruling on Friday stating that Daniel Duggan, a former U.S. Marine Corps pilot, can be extradited to the United States. The allegations against Duggan involve claims of illegally training Chinese aviators. This decision leaves the attorney-general as Duggan’s final chance to stay in Australia.

Magistrate Daniel Reiss has ordered the 55-year-old, who was born in Boston, to remain in custody while awaiting extradition.

His lawyers acknowledged that they do not have any legal basis to contest the magistrate’s decision regarding Duggan’s eligibility for extradition. However, they plan to present arguments to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus explaining why the pilot should not be handed over.

Duggan’s lawyer, Bernard Collaery, expressed confidence that the attorney would allow ample time to discuss all the issues that cannot be addressed in an Australian court under the Extradition Act. He shared this with reporters outside the court.

According to a statement from Dreyfus’ office, the government refrains from providing comments on extradition matters.

Saffrine Duggan, the wife and mother of Duggan’s six children, expressed her frustration with the extradition court hearing, describing it as a mere formality.

She addressed the gathering of reporters and supporters outside the court, urging the attorney-general to re-evaluate the case and bring her husband back home.

According to a recent report by Reuters, Duggan’s lawyer revealed in a legal filing that the pilot had been unknowingly collaborating with a Chinese hacker.

The pilot has been incarcerated in a maximum-security prison for 19 months since authorities apprehended him at his family residence in New South Wales in 2022.

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According to an unsealed 2016 indictment from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., it was revealed in late 2022 that Duggan had conspired with others to offer training to Chinese military pilots in 2010 and 2012, potentially on other occasions as well, without obtaining the required license.

According to prosecutors, Duggan allegedly received approximately nine payments, totaling around 88,000 Australian dollars ($61,000), as well as international travel from another conspirator. These payments were often referred to as “personal development training.”

Duggan, a former major in the U.S. Marine Corps, had an illustrious career as a jet pilot and tactical flight instructor before he decided to immigrate to Australia in 2002. After spending 12 years in the military and reaching the rank of major, he made the bold move to become an Australian citizen in January 2012, relinquishing his U.S. citizenship in the process.

Duggan traveled to the U.S., China, and South Africa, where he provided training to Chinese pilots in South Africa, according to the indictment.

Duggan refutes the allegations, stating that they are merely political posturing by the United States, who have unfairly singled him out.

Duggan was employed at Top Gun Tasmania, a company that prided itself as Australia’s leading adventure flight company.

According to the now-defunct web page of the company, Duggan identified himself as a “former U.S. Marine Corps officer with a service of over 12 years.” The website further states that he conducted missions in support of Operation Southern Watch from Kuwait and the USS Boxer.

According to the website, he had extensive experience as a skilled fighter pilot, tactically flying harrier jump jets off aircraft carriers worldwide.

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