Tue, 06 Jun 2023

Sydney [Australia], March 22 (ANI): Former US Marine charged with training Chinese pilots may have been 'lured' from China to Australia, reported The Straits Times.

His lawyer accused Australia of luring him to the country for arrest and eventual extradition to the United States.

Daniel Duggan, 54, is facing extradition to the United States on charges of breaking US law by training Chinese military pilots to land on aircraft carriers.

He was arrested by Australian federal police in a rural town in New South Wales state in October, shortly after returning from China, where he had lived since 2014.

Australian police are investigating a former British military pilot suspected of involvement in the training of Chinese military pilots at the Test Flying Academy of South Africa.

Outside court, Duggan's lawyer Dennis Miralis said the pilot had been given a security clearance by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) to start a new aviation job before he returned from China, but an arrest warrant was issued while he was on the plane home and his security clearance was revoked, reported The Straits Times.

Miralis said this clearance was swiftly revoked, and questioned whether it was a "lure" -- only issued to convince Duggan it was safe to leave China.

"Manipulation of a security clearance to give a false sense that he was able to return to Australia, that's a matter of grave significance," Miralis said.

Earlier, Britain had issued a warning to its former defence staff not to train Chinese People's Liberation Army pilots at a South African flying academy where Duggan had also worked.

Britain's Air Chief Marshal Michael Wigston said earlier in March that intelligence agencies in Australia and Britain had shared information to warn pilots against working for Beijing.

Meanwhile, Duggan's extradition case was adjourned until May, as his lawyers seek access to documents from Australian government agencies for his defence, reported The Straits Times.

Duggan, who is being held in a maximum-security prison, is an Australian citizen who renounced his US citizenship. Before moving to China in 2014, he had lived in Australia for a decade and had six children in Australia.

Miralis said Duggan was concerned that political tensions between the US and China were affecting his case.

Beijing is reportedly hiring mostly pilots for contracts as lucrative as USD 270,000 a year, via a South African company Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA).

Using TFASA, China targeted those with direct access to the latest, closely guarded, defence initiatives. Aside from UK, Australia has also launched a probe into these reports. (ANI)

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