Russian, Italian charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from US aviation company

A Russian national and an Italian national were charged earlier this month with conspiring and attempting to steal trade secrets from American company GE Aviation, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

Alexander Yuryevich Korshunov, 57, and Maurizio Paolo Bianchi, 59, were alleged to have hired consultants for jet engine accessory work between 2013 and 2018 who used trade secrets owned by GE Aviation when they created their report to pass off as their own, the DOJ said. GE Aviation is a subsidiary of General Electric and is based in Ohio.

“Throughout the consulting, employees allegedly used trade secrets owned by GE Aviation to create the technical report. The effort focused on accessory gearboxes made by Avio Aero, which are external engine components that provide power to systems such as hydraulic pumps, generators and fuel pumps,” the department explained. The employees were current or former employees of GE Aviation’s Italian subsidiary.

The employees’ report said “the holders of patent and intellectual property obtained as a result of the work are […] the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation,” when GE Aviation actually owned the intellectual property.

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Korshunov previously served as a public official in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was an employee of a Russian state-owned company, according to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, which was unsealed Thursday. He was arrested Friday at the Naples International Airport in Italy.

The affidavit said Korshunov met with the employees at the Paris Air Show in June 2013, and in Milan in 2014, so they could discuss the report.

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Korshunov was employed at United Engine Corp (UEC), which included the subsidiary Aviadvigatel - a branch of the Russian state-owned company, the DOJ said.

The State Department of Commerce noted last year that Aviadvigatel had acted "contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States."

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Bianchi was a former director at one of GE Aviation’s Italian subsidiaries and was responsible for business in Asia, China and Russia. He later worked for Aeronova in Italy.

Korshunov and Bianchi could each face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.