SYDNEY — Australia’s government approved a U.S. request to extradite a former American pilot allegedly involved in training Chinese military pilots on how to land on aircraft carriers.
The department of Australia’s attorney-general said Wednesday that Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus agreed to formally receive Washington’s request to extradite Daniel Edmund Duggan. The department said Duggan is wanted for prosecution for money laundering and offences under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act.
The attorney-general’s office said Duggan’s lawyer had been informed. A lawyer for Duggan didn’t respond to a request for comment. The lawyer, Dennis Miralis, previously said Mr. Duggan denies breaching any laws.
The matter is listed to go before an Australian court on Jan. 10. Duggan can appeal against Australia’s Extradition Act.
U.S. authorities allege that Duggan, a former commissioned officer in the U.S. Marines who was taken into custody in Australia in October, breached U.S. arms-control laws and was involved in a conspiracy.
The allegations were contained in a 2017 indictment unsealed last month by a federal court in Washington, D.C. According to the indictment against Duggan, the training for Chinese military pilots on aircraft-carrier approach and landing was to occur in China, South Africa and other locations.
Several alleged co-conspirators, all unnamed, were involved, including a test-flight academy in South Africa that also had a presence in China, a Chinese-based company that acquired military training for the Chinese government, and another former U.S. military pilot, the indictment said.
U.S. allies have expressed worries recently that China, which the Biden administration views as the greatest threat to American security, was trying to lure former pilots and erode the West’s military advantage. Training on aircraft carriers specifically would be of concern to Western officials, given China’s recent focus on building such a fleet to better compete with the U.S.
The U.K. Ministry of Defence said recently that it would take steps, including through legislation, to deter and penalize former military pilots who helped train the Chinese military.
Australia also recently said it would review its rules aimed at deterring former military personnel from aiding foreign adversaries. The U.S., meanwhile, has been seeking to prosecute other former military pilots who may have helped China.