For former fighter pilots, a retraining in the private sector is difficult to supervise

A Rafale fighter pilot watches a Russian Sukhoi SU-34 aircraft in Lithuania on December 16, 2022.

Three months after British intelligence revealed that several dozen of its former fighter pilots were trading their know-how with a private company working for China, how to regulate this type of practice, which affects a handful of French , remains very uncertain. A first court hearing, this time concerning a former American marine pilot exiled in Australia, took place in Sydney on January 10. But his extradition to the United States could be laborious.

Daniel Edmund Duggan, 54, was arrested in October 2022 in Australia on the basis of a US arrest warrant issued since 2017. When he was arrested, he was returning from China, where he had just spent eight years as an instructor, due to of his experience in naval aviation according to the “NATO standards”, according to the indictment. This father of six children also worked for a South African company linked to Beijing.

Placed in pre-trial detention, Mr. Duggan was accused of having, by his activity, violated the American laws on “money laundering and arms export controls”. His lawyer disputed these charges during the hearing on January 10, arguing that his client, who renounced his American citizenship since moving to Australia, was only a “pawn” in the struggle between the United States and China.

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Although Mr. Duggan’s extradition notice was accepted by the Australian courts on December 22, 2022, the process “will be vigorously opposed at every stage”, warned his lawyer. Especially since, during the first debates, the Australian Ministry of Defense admitted knowing many Australians, not prosecuted at this stage, who had provided training in other countries related to military activities. The next hearing on Mr Duggan’s case is scheduled for February 13.

‘No secrets were leaked’

The thirty or so British pilots who belonged to the Royal Air Force, the Fleet Air Arm (the naval aviation) and the Army Air Corps are also not the subject, at this stage, of legal proceedings by London. “No laws were broken, no secrets were leaked, the UK Ministry of Defense has known for years what we are doing (…) and, in this training, there are very strong rules concerning the handing over of information”defended himself, in October 2022, the boss of the company based in South Africa which employed these pilots on behalf of the Chinese army, in an article published by the site Business Insider South Africa.

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