Former US military pilot arrested in Australia worked for a South African flight school

The Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA) also told Reuters it had a previous business relationship with a Chinese businessman, Su Bin, who was jailed in the US in 2016 for conspiring to hack into computers belonging to US defense contractors.

Su Bin organized for Chinese People’s Liberation Army pilots to come to South Africa between 2009 and 2013 to take part in TFASA training, an aviation source told Reuters. The school said it has had no contact with Su Bin since 2013.

Daniel Edmund Duggan, a former US Navy pilot and Australian citizen, was arrested in New South Wales at the request of the US government, the same week Britain announced a crackdown on ex-military pilots working for intermediaries including TFASA.

There is a warrant for Duggan’s arrest in the United States, but that warrant and the charges against him are sealed. Duggan, who could be extradited to the United States, denies breaking any law there or in Australia, his lawyer said.

“Mr Duggan performed a contract for TFASA in South Africa more than 10 years ago and the company has had no contact with him since,” TFASA told Reuters. Duggan was training Chinese pilots for TFASA, an aviation source told Reuters.

Duggan’s attorney Dennis Miralis of Nyman, Gibson and Miralis did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his client’s work for TFASA.

Reuters had reported that Duggan had moved from Australia to China in 2014 to work as an aviation consultant and provided the same Beijing address as Su Bin. Su Bin was arrested in Canada in July 2014 and sentenced to prison in the United States two years later after pleading guilty to a high-profile hacking case in which US military aircraft designs were stolen by the Chinese military between 2009 and 2014, according to a report by China, legal documents on the conviction in the case.

Marketing material for TFASA lists Su Bin’s company, Lode Technologies, as one of the Chinese companies it has partnered with in China for “flight test execution and consultation, flight test training and certification”. “Mr Su Bin facilitated a small number of TFASA training courses in South Africa about a decade ago, but the company has had no contact with him since 2013,” the company spokesman said in a written response to questions from Reuters. .

The British government said last month it was taking steps to prevent former military pilots from training China’s armed forces.

The proposed measures include changing the law to make it a criminal offense for a pilot to continue training a foreign official after being warned by British intelligence to stop, following reports by Sky News and the BBC that the South African flying school is one of the middlemen who recruited British pilots to train the People’s Liberation Army of China.

“We are aware of Chinese recruitment programs seeking serving and former British Armed Forces fast jet pilots to train People’s Liberation Army personnel in the People’s Republic of China. This could put the UK’s national security at risk, so we are taking decisive action to put an end to this activity,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement to Reuters.

“All serving and former personnel are already subject to the Official Secrets Act, but we are reviewing the use of non-disclosure agreements and non-disclosure agreements, while the National Security Bill will create additional tools to address contemporary security concerns – including this one.”

China’s foreign ministry said it was not aware of the situation when asked by Reuters to comment on Su Bin’s work for the South African pilot school and the British government’s move to train its pilots so the Chinese military can stop.

The South African Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request for comment on Su Bin’s work for the South African Flight School. The US Department of Justice declined to comment.

TFASA responded to Britain’s crackdown on ex-military pilots training Chinese pilots in a statement on its website, saying all its activities were legal.

In the statement on its website, TFASA confirmed that it had Chinese clients and that many of its staff were ex-soldiers, but said it “never actively recruited teachers directly from people serving in the armed forces of a NATO country”. .

Many of its pilots were already working in the private sector, the company said. Australia said on Wednesday that its intelligence services and federal police are “investigating a number of cases” of former military pilots who have been approached to work in China in military-related training. Australia is also reviewing rules that prohibit former military personnel from disclosing state secrets or official information.

Robert Anello, the lawyer who represented Su Bin in the 2014 hacking case, did not respond to a request for comment, and Su Bin could not be reached for comment.

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