Washington (AFP) - A Russian with government ties and an Italian aerospace expert have been charged with the theft of jet engine technology from leading American manufacturer GE Aviation, the US Justice Department announced Thursday.
Alexander Yuryevich Korshunov, 57, and Maurizio Paolo Bianchi, 59 were charged in a just-unsealed criminal complaint with stealing trade secrets in the latest case involving theft of US aviation industry intellectual property.
The Justice Department said that from 2013 to 2018, Korshunov hired Bianchi, a former director for GE Aviation's Italian subsidiary, to help with the design of jet engine gearboxes for Aviadvigatel, a subsidiary of Russian state-owned aerospace company United Engine Corp.
Korshunov worked for United Engine and was formerly an official with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the charges said.
Bianchi recruited several GE employees to do the work for a smaller engine, after which Korshunov asked if they could also provide "know-how" for larger engines suitable for the wide-body aircraft that GE specializes in.
In 2018, Bianchi recruited a second team of retired GE Aviation engineers to work on gearboxes for a larger engine.
The Justice Department alleged that throughout the work, Bianchi's employees used trade secrets owned by GE Aviation, and that both Korshunov and Bianchi knew that.
"The new group must not know about the previous team. Those people are working for (GE) and cannot be exposed," Korshunov wrote in an email in early 2018, according to the charges.
The department said that Korshunov was arrested on August 30 at the airport in Naples, Italy, while Bianchi is still at large.
The charges of attempted trade secret theft and conspiracy can carry up to 10 years in prison.
The case follows several involving Chinese theft of US aerospace secrets, including from GE Aviation, that were driven in part by Chinese government intelligence agents.