Chinese military helicopters fly past Pingtan island, one of mainland China's closest points to Taiwan, on August 4, 2022
Chinese military helicopters fly past Pingtan island, one of mainland China's closest points to Taiwan, on August 4, 2022

An Australian court has determined that a former US Marine pilot, who was accused of illegally training Chinese military pilots more than ten years ago, was suitable for extradition to the United States.

Daniel Duggan, currently a citizen of Australia, had disputed the accusations and was awaiting word from the Attorney General on his potential extradition to the United States, ABC reported.

Authorities in the U.S., following whose request Australia had arrested Duggan in October 2022, claimed he was paid $100,000 for training the Chinese pilots during his tenure at the Test Flying Academy of South Africa. The U.S. government said Duggan had done so without seeking their permission.

The U.S. has accused 55-year-old Duggan of conspiracy, money laundering, and armed trafficking. He may get a term of up to 65 years if found guilty.

Duggan said that his actions were lawful and that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the US Naval Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) were both aware of his work in a letter from jail obtained by the AAP.

"Neither ASIO nor NCIS made any claim or gave any warning that the activity was considered illegal," he stated. Intelligence officers were "indifferent" about his job and informed him they didn't want to meddle in his affairs when he offered not to go back to China or South Africa.

Magistrate Daniel Reiss of the Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court ordered Duggan to be taken to prison, adding that he was eligible to surrender to the U.S.

His attorneys have decided not to challenge this phase of the case. This implies a potential change in tactics or the conviction that the resistance to extradition would be more effective later on. Duggan has been given 15 days to contest the ruling.

Saffrine, Duggan's wife, sent a petition to legislators in Canberra, signed by 25,000 people, requesting that Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus free her husband and halt his extradition.

"We want him to intervene here by his authority as attorney general."

Before the hearing, supporters of Duggan's release gathered outside the court, including his wife, six children, and advocates.

The decision comes after Duggan tried in vain to postpone his extradition hearing, claiming he couldn't afford the legal bills and couldn't sell his house.