Ex-Marine facing extradition in Australia says wasn't US citizen at time of offence

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A former U.S. Marine Corps pilot facing extradition to the United States from Australia will argue he was no longer a U.S. citizen at the time of two of the alleged offences, which include training Chinese pilots, a Sydney court heard on Thursday.

Daniel Duggan, a 55-year-old Australian citizen, is facing extradition from Australia on charges including money laundering and breaking U.S. law by training Chinese military pilots to land on aircraft carriers.

He was arrested by Australian federal police in a rural town in New South Wales state in October 2022, shortly after returning from China, where he had lived since 2014.

In the same week, Britain issued a warning to its former defence staff not to train Chinese People's Liberation Army pilots at a South African flying academy where Duggan had also worked.

Duggan, whose wife and six children are also Australian, has been held in a maximum security prison since his arrest.

His barrister Bernard Collaery told the court on Thursday that Duggan would argue he renounced his U.S. citizenship in January 2012 and was not a U.S. citizen at the time of two of the offences alleged in a U.S. indictment.

The United States government has argued Duggan didn't lose his U.S. citizenship until 2016.

Collaery told the court that Duggan's family is seeking government aid to continue his legal defence, after spending A$800,000 on legal fees that could not be paid after the U.S. government froze the sale of an Australian property owned by Duggan and his wife.

Duggan's previous lawyers are no longer acting in the case, the court heard, and Legal Aid was needed to pay fees for the new lawyers to prepare for a hearing on May 24, where Duggan's response to the U.S. extradition request will finally be made.

Magistrate Daniel Reiss noted Duggan had already had 14 months to prepare for a hearing on his eligibility for extradition, and refused an application to delay the May 24 hearing.

"I am satisfied there has been a reasonable opportunity to prepare for the hearing," he said.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)