South African flying school executive investigated by Australian police

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Australian police have searched a property of, but not charged, a former British military pilot who is an executive of a South African flight school under scrutiny by British authorities for training Chinese military pilots.

Another ex-military pilot who previously worked for the flying school was arrested in Australia in October. Former US Marine pilot Daniel Duggan is in custody in Sydney awaiting a decision by the Attorney General on a US extradition request.

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Australian federal police executed a search warrant in November on the South Australian property of Keith Hartley, who is the chief operating officer of the Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA), a police spokesman confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday.

The investigation of a second pilot was first reported by The Australian newspaper.

Hartley declined to comment to Reuters. His lawyer, Dennis Miralis, said Hartley had not been charged with any offence and was seeking a judicial review of the police search warrant in the Federal Court.

“Mr Keith Hartley and TFASA firmly deny any criminal wrongdoing and will continue to exercise their legal rights under Australian law,” Miralis said in a statement to Reuters.

Britain announced a crackdown on its former military pilots working to train Chinese fliers in the same week Duggan was arrested in Australia, and vowed to change national security law to stop them working for intermediaries such as the South African flying academy. TFASA denied it or its British instructors had broken any British law.

A 2017 indictment unsealed by a Washington district court this month showed Duggan faces four charges in the United States including breaking US arms control law by training Chinese military pilots to land on aircraft carriers.

“Duggan provided military training to PRC [People’s Republic of China] pilots” through a South African flight school in 2010 and 2012, the indictment said.

Duggan has denied breaking any law.

The indictment also lists a British national who is the chief operating officer of “a test flying academy based in South Africa with a presence in the PRC” as an unidentified co-conspirator.

Miralis, who is also Duggan’s lawyer, said he had not seen the US extradition request for Duggan and it was unclear if it was based on the 2017 indictment or a new one. Miralis said he had seen the 2017 indictment but he and Hartley both declined to comment on the unidentified British co-conspirator.

“The Attorney General has informed us previously that it shouldn’t be assumed that will in fact be the ultimate indictment upon which his extradition is sought,” he said outside a Sydney court on Tuesday.

Miralis said extradition should be opposed. He has previously said Duggan was an Australian citizen who renounced his US citizenship and denies breaking any law.

The Attorney General has until December 25 to make a decision on the extradition request.

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