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Marine vet indicted for training Chinese pilots on illegally obtained US jet

A U.S. T-2C Buckeye trainer aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
December 18, 2022

A U.S. Marine veteran has been charged with training Chinese military pilots and working with co-conspirators who were charged with illegally obtaining a U.S. T-2 Buckeye naval jet trainer for the Chinese government.

In October, Australian Federal Police announced they had arrested 54-year-old Daniel Edmund Duggan in an international operation at the request of the U.S. government. Though U.S. prosecutors did not immediately specify the reason for Duggan’s arrest, media sources alleged the arrest was tied to the retired Marine Harrier attack jet pilot’s work for Chinese aviation consultancy firms.

Duggan had actually been indicted in 2017, but the indictment had remained sealed until only recently when he was taken into Australian custody. According to the newly unsealed indictment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, obtained by American Military News, Duggan faces two counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and one count of money laundering.

The indictment states that starting in around 2010, Duggan worked with eight unnamed co-conspirators to train Chinese military pilots. Duggan’s alleged co-conspirators allegedly worked to acquire a T-2 trainer jet to train Chinese military pilots on how to approach and land on aircraft carriers.

One of the unnamed coconspirators, working at the behest of four other coconspirators, is accused of providing false information to a U.S. aircraft dealer in order to win U.S. government approval to export the T-2 trainer jet to South Africa. Neither Duggan nor his co-conspirators applied for a license to re-transfer the T-2, according to the indictment. The charging document said Duggan also failed to apply for a license to provide foreign military training.

The indictment further alleges Duggan laundered his money to conceal his work training Chinese military pilots.

The unsealing of the indictment against Duggan comes as Western nations have been cracking down on Chinese efforts to recruit former Western pilots to train China’s air forces. In October, the U.K. government revealed that since 2019, China had hired around 30 former British military pilots — mostly with experience flying fast combat jets and helicopters — to train China’s military pilots.

Reuters reported Duggan remains in Australian custody in Sydney. Reuters reported the U.S. government has until Dec. 20 to file an extradition request under the existing U.S.-Australia extradition rules.