A former U.S. military pilot and flight instructor who ran an aviation consultancy in China is in custody in Australia awaiting an extradition request from his homeland on an undisclosed charge, officials said Wednesday.
Daniel Edmund Duggan, who says he is a former U.S. Marine Corps major, was refused bail when he appeared last Friday in Orange Local Court in the New South Wales state rural town of Orange northwest of Sydney, court records show.
Australian Federal Police arrested him that day “pursuant to a request from the United States,” a police statement said.
“As the matter is before the courts, it would not be appropriate to comment further,” police and the Attorney-General’s Department said in identically worded statements.
Defense Minister Richard Marles told his department last week to investigate whether any former Australian military personnel had been recruited to work for the Chinese air force.
His move followed a report that up to 30 former British military pilots had been hired to train members of China’s People’s Liberation Army.
“I would be deeply shocked and disturbed to hear that there were personnel who were being lured by a paycheck from a foreign state above serving their own country,” Marles said in a statement.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said it was taking “decisive steps” to prevent Chinese attempts to recruit serving and former British pilots.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin was asked at his regular news briefing in Beijing on Tuesday to comment on a report of Duggan’s arrest amid investigations of pilots being hired to train China’s military.
Wang replied, “I’m not aware of the situation you mentioned.”
Duggan is scheduled to next appear in court in Sydney on November 4, when he can apply for bail.
He is being held in custody under Section 15 of the Extradition Act that prevents a judge from releasing him on bail unless there are “special circumstances,” court documents show.
The charge that Duggan is to face remains sealed.
The U.S. Justice Department, which has 60 days from Duggan’s arrest to request his extradition, declined to comment in a statement.
The U.S. Embassy in the Australian capital, Canberra, also declined to comment.
Duggan said in his LinkedIn profile that since 2017 he had been general manager of AVIBIZ Limited, “a comprehensive consultancy company with a focus on the fast growing and dynamic Chinese Aviation Industry.” AVIBIZ is based in Qingdao, a city in eastern Shandong province.
Duggan said he spent 13 years in the U.S. Marine Corps until 2002. He became an AV-8B Harrier fighter pilot and an instructor pilot during his service.
He lived in Australia from 2005 and 2014, founding and becoming chief pilot of Top Gun Tasmania, a business based in Tasmania state that offered joy flights in a BAC Jet Provost, a British military jet trainer, and a Chinese military propellor-driven trainer, a CJ-6A Nanchang.
“These two planes are used to train air force pilots in combat and military maneuvers, and the Top Gun team ensures that participants experience the magnificent capabilities of these flying machines,” the business’s website said.
He moved to Beijing in 2014. It is not clear whether he continues to live in China or what he was doing in Orange when he was arrested.
Duggan’s lawyer, Dennis Miralis, did not respond to requests for comment.
The United States has had an extradition treaty with Australia since 1976.