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Former U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot accused of conspiracy for training Chinese military pilots

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A former U.S. military pilot has been accused by the United States of conspiracy and breaking an arms control law by training Chinese military pilots to land on aircraft carriers, according to an unsealed indictment.  

Daniel Edmund Duggan, an Australian citizen, "provided training to PRC (People's Republic of China) military pilots" at a South Africa-based flight academy on at least three occasions between 2010 and 2012, according to the 2017 indictment unsealed by a court in Washington last week.

Duggan was arrested in Australia in October, the same week Britain and Australia issued unusually candid warnings about China's attempts to recruit retired military pilots.

The training involved "instruction on the tactics, techniques, and procedures associated with launching aircraft from, and landing aircraft on, a naval aircraft carrier," the indictment said.

Neither Duggan nor his co-conspirators had applied for a license to provide defense services to foreign nationals, it said.

The former U.S. Marine had acted with several unidentified co-conspirators, including a Chinese national, a British national, and a South African national, it added.

According to the indictment, Duggan faces two counts of violating the arms export control act and international arms trafficking regulations, one charge of conspiracy to launder money, and one count of conspiracy.

He has been detained under Australia's Extradition Act, pending an official request from the U.S. government.

His lawyer said last month Duggan had been classified as an "extreme high-risk restricted inmate" inside a maximum-security facility in Sydney and had been denied access to writing materials and medical treatment.

Duggan lived and worked in China for about five years before his arrest, corporate records showed, although the details of his alleged offenses have been sealed by the U.S. government.

Reuters previously reported that eight years ago, Duggan shared an address in China with businessman Su Bin, who was sentenced to prison in the U.S. after pleading guilty in a hacking case involving the theft of U.S. military aircraft designs. 

Duggan moved to Australia after leaving the U.S. Marines, running a business called Top Gun Australia, which billed itself as the country's "premier adventure flight company."

On the company's web page, Duggan described himself as a "former U.S. Marine Corps officer of over 12 years." He flew missions in support of Operation Southern Watch from Kuwait and the USS Boxer, the website says. 

"As a highly trained fighter pilot, he flew harrier jump jets off of aircraft carriers tactically around the globe," the website says.

Western governments have been scrambling to investigate reports that China has been poaching retired military personnel. In October, the U.K. government said it was taking "decisive steps" against a Chinese recruitment effort to bring in former and serving British air force pilots to train its military personnel. 

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