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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Ben Doherty

Alleged illegal conduct by Asio could stymie extradition of Daniel Duggan to US on charges of arms trafficking

The US government is seeking the extradition of former US marines pilot Daniel Duggan on charges of arms trafficking and money laundering.
The US government is seeking the extradition of former US marines pilot Daniel Duggan on charges of arms trafficking and money laundering. Photograph: Supplied

Alleged illegal conduct by Australia’s spy agency could halt a US effort to extradite a former fighter pilot accused of training Chinese military aviators.

Lawyers for Daniel Edmund Duggan, 54, will argue to temporarily stay a request from the US to extradite him to America while Australia’s inspector general of intelligence services (IGIS) conducts a formal investigation into the conduct of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) agents in regards to Duggan’s case.

Duggan will spend at least another 86 days in prison before his case comes back to court in July. He has already been incarcerated – much of it in isolation – for 191 days.

“I’m crushed that Dan now faces, at very least, another 86 days in maximum security solitary confinement with no Australian charges, no convictions anywhere, and no history of violence whatsoever,” Duggan’s wife, Saffrine said after Monday’s hearing at Sydney’s Downing Centre local court.

Duggan, a former US marines pilot – now a naturalised Australian – was arrested last October at the request of the US government, which is seeking his extradition on charges of arms trafficking and money laundering more than a decade ago.

The father of six school-age children, Duggan, 54, denies the charges and is fighting his extradition from prison, a process that could take months, even years to resolve.

Speaking outside court on Monday, Duggan’s lawyer Dennis Miralis said a hearing for the stay, set for 25 July, would give his client the chance to protect his rights to a fair hearing.

The inspector general of intelligence and security has launched an inquiry into the circumstances of Duggan’s return to Australia from China after the pilot’s legal team lodged a formal complaint. The inspector general has already conducted a four-and-a-half month preliminary inquiry.

“The substance of the complaint fundamentally relates to whether or not Asio has acted illegally or improperly in its dealings with Mr Duggan over an extended period of time,” Miralis said.

Daniel Duggan’s lawyer, Dennis Miralis.
Daniel Duggan’s lawyer, Dennis Miralis. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Miralis has previously claimed the former pilot was “lured” back to Australia and then arrested.

Barrister Trent Glover, representing the US, confirmed in court the IGIS inquiry related to “an allegation the Asio lured Mr Duggan back to Australia to facilitate his arrest”.

Few details of the exact allegations against Duggan have been made in an Australian court.

Glover told Sydney’s Downing Centre local court on Monday the Australian government had filed submissions regarding Duggan’s case to the court.

“There is no confidentiality about those submissions, they can be made available to the media,” he told magistrate Margaret Quinn.

However the court refused the Guardian, and other media outlets, access to the submissions.

The US alleges Duggan trained Chinese fighter pilots to land fighter jets on aircraft carriers, in defiance of arms trafficking laws, and engaged in a conspiracy to launder money. Those claims have not been tested in court.

Duggan served more than a decade flying in the US Marine Corps, rising to the rank of major and working as a military tactical flight instructor.

He left the marines in 2002 and moved to Australia. He became an Australian citizen on Australia Day 2012, and renounced his US citizenship in 2017.

A 2017 US grand jury indictment, unsealed last December, alleges Duggan received at least A$116,000 (US$81,000) in payments in 2011 and 2012 for his work training Chinese fighter pilots at a test flight academy “based in South Africa, with a presence in the People’s Republic of China”.

The indictment alleges Duggan “provided military training to People’s Republic of China military pilots … and instruction on the tactics, techniques and procedures associated with launching aircraft from, and landing aircraft on, a naval aircraft carrier”.

Duggan strenuously rejects all charges against him as being politically motivated, and the indictment full of “half-truths, falsehoods and gross embellishments”. His lawyers have argued the request for his extradition is politically motivated – catalysed by the US’s deepening geopolitical contest with China – and invalid under Australia’s extradition treaty with the US.

Australia’s extradition treaty with the US states that extradition must be refused if the alleged offence is of a “political character”. The principle of dual, or double, criminality also applies: the alleged offences must be a crime in both countries.

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