Exclusive: Former U.S. military pilot who worked in China arrested in Australia, faces extradition

SYDNEY, Oct 25 (Reuters) - A former U.S. military pilot and flight instructor who worked in China was arrested in Australia and faces extradition to the United States, Australian court documents and company records show.

Australian Federal Police arrested Daniel Edmund Duggan, 54, on Friday in the rural town of Orange in New South Wales, and he appeared in court there on the same day, court records show and two police sources and his lawyer confirmed.

His lawyer appeared by videoconference, and Duggan was denied bail and taken to the nearby Bathurst jail, two of the sources said.

Duggan is a former U.S. citizen and the federal police were acting on a U.S. request for his arrest ahead of likely formal extradition proceedings, said one of the police sources, who was not authorised to speak publicly.

Duggan's next court appearance will be in Sydney in November to consider any bail application. Details of the U.S. arrest warrant and the charges he faces are sealed.

"An individual was arrested on 21 October 2022 pursuant to a request from the United States of America for their provisional arrest," a spokesman for the federal Attorney-General's Department said in a written statement to Reuters. "As the matter is before the courts, it would not be appropriate to comment further."

The arrest came the same week Britain warned dozens of former military pilots to stop working in China or face prosecution on national security grounds under new laws. Australia is also investigating reports some of its former fighter pilots have been approached to work in China. read more

An aviation source told Reuters that the FBI sought Duggan because of his work in China. His lawyer, Dennis Miralis of Nyman, Gibson and Miralis, said he could not comment.

Duggan moved to Australia after a decade in the U.S. military and started a business called Top Gun Tasmania, hiring former U.S. and British military pilots to offer tourists joyrides in fighter jets, company records show and aviation sources confirmed.

Duggan also flew ex-military aircraft in Australian air shows, three pilots told Reuters.

Top Gun Tasmania's website says Duggan flew Harrier jump jets in the U.S. Marines and was an air combat instructor.

He moved to Beijing in 2014 and soon after sold Top Gun Tasmania, filings in Australia for the company show.

Duggan's LinkedIn profile said he has been working in Qingdao, China, since 2017 as the managing director of AVIBIZ Limited, described as "a comprehensive aviation consultancy company with a focus on the fast growing and dynamic Chinese Aviation Industry".

Hong Kong company records show AVIBIZ Limited was registered there by Australian passport holder Daniel Edmund Duggan in 2017 and dissolved in 2020.

Duggan could not be immediately reached for comment.

Under Australia's extradition treaty with the United States, the U.S. government will have 60 days to make an extradition request. The treaty allows Australian citizens to be extradited.

Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney; additional reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney and Greg Torode in Hong Kong. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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