An executive of Russia’s state-owned aircraft engine maker, United Engine Corp, was arrested in Italy on charges from the United States. The Justice Department announced that the charges were to do with an attempt to steal aviation secrets.

Aviation trade secrets stolen

The executive in question is Alexander Korshunov. Korshunov is 57 years old, the head of business development at United Engine Corp and a former employee of Russia’s foreign ministry. He was detained upon his arrival at an airport in Naples, Italy due to a criminal complaint issued by the US Justice Department.

United Engine Corp is a Russian state-owned company and produces engines for military and civil aviation. UEC also produces various pieces of equipment for generating electricity. The company’s head, Sergei Chemezov it reportedly a confidant of President Putin.

The complaint from the US stated that Korshunov, along with an Italian national, Maurizio Bianchi, hired former and current employees of General Electric’s aviation subsidiary (GE Aviation) through an Italian company to consult on jet-engine accessories. The complaint also said that a report was created by the acquired employees using trade secrets owned by GE Aviation. Allegedly, the report focused on transferring power from engines to external components like fuel pumps, generators and hydraulic pumps through gear boxes.

In a statement GE aviation said:

“The individuals charged in this case targeted employees of a GE Aviation subsidiary company in an effort to illegally obtain trade secrets related to external engine components. At GE, we aggressively protect and defend our intellectual property, and we have strict processes in place for identifying these issues and partnering with law enforcement.”

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, rebuked the arrest calling it ‘bad practice’ and said that it could complicate relations with the U.S.