A manufacturer and exporter of wind turbines based in the People’s Republic of China, two employees of that manufacturer and a former employee of a subsidiary of AMSC, a United States-based company formerly known as American Superconductor Inc., were charged today with stealing trade secrets from AMSC causing an alleged loss of more than $800 million to the company, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin John W. Vaudreuil.
A federal grand jury in the Western District of Wisconsin returned an indictment charging Sinovel Wind Group Co. Ltd., dba Sinovel Wind Group (USA) Co. Ltd.; Su Liying, 36, the deputy director of Sinovel’s Research and Development Department; Zhao Haichun, 33, a technology manager for Sinovel; and Dejan Karabasevic, 40, a former employee of AMSC Windtec GmbH, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AMSC, with one count each of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, theft of trade secrets and wire fraud.
“Today, we announce charges against Sinovel and three individuals for stealing proprietary wind turbine technology from AMSC in order to produce their own turbines powered by stolen intellectual property,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “This charged IP theft caused significant harm to a domestic company that develops cutting edge technology and employs Americans throughout the country. Stamping out intellectual property theft is a top priority for this administration, and we will continue to work with our IP Task Force partners to ensure that American ingenuity is protected.”
“The allegations in this indictment describe a well-planned attack on an American business by international defendants–nothing short of attempted corporate homicide,” said U.S. Attorney Vaudreuil. “The Department of Justice and this office are committed to protecting American commerce and aggressively prosecuting those who seek to steal and use our intellectual property. I commend the efforts of the FBI and their Austrian counterparts in this long-term international investigation, and the assistance provided by the owners and operators of the Massachusetts turbines.”
“The Sinovel case is a classic example of the growing insider threat facing our nation’s corporations and their intellectual property,” said FBI Executive Assistant Director Richard McFeely. “The FBI will not stand by and watch the hemorrhage of U.S. intellectual property to foreign countries who seek to gain an unfair advantage for their military and their industries. We are actively working with our private sector and government partners to disrupt and impact those who have made it their mission to steal U.S. military and corporate secrets. Since 2008, our economic espionage arrests have doubled; indictments have increased five-fold; and convictions have risen eight-fold.”
Karabasevic headed the automation engineering department at AMSC Windtec in Klagenfurt, Austria. Su and Zhao are Chinese nationals living in China, and Karabasevic is a Serbian national who lived in Austria, but now lives in Serbia.
According to the indictment, AMSC developed and sold software and equipment to regulate the flow of electricity from wind turbines to electrical grids, and it considered the software and equipment to be trade secrets and proprietary information. The software that runs the PM3000, a part of AMSC’s wind turbine electrical control system, was developed in Wisconsin and was stored on a computer in AMSC’s office in Middleton, Wis. The PM3000 worked with other products, including AMSC’s Low Voltage Ride Through (LVRT) software. The LVRT system is designed to keep a wind turbine operational when there is a temporary sag or dip in flow of electricity in the electrical grid.
Sinovel purchased software and equipment from AMSC for the wind turbines that Sinovel manufactured, sold and serviced. According to the indictment, in March 2011, Sinovel owed AMSC more than $100 million for products and services previously delivered and had entered into contracts to purchase more than $700 million in products and services from AMSC in the future.
The indictment alleges that the four defendants conspired to obtain AMSC’s copyrighted information and trade secrets in order to produce wind turbines and to retrofit existing wind turbines with LVRT technology, without having to pay AMSC for previously-delivered products and services, thereby cheating AMSC out of more than $800 million.
The indictment alleges that Sinovel, through Su and Zhao, recruited Karabasevic to leave AMSC Windtec and join Sinovel, and to secretly copy intellectual property from the AMSC computer system. The four defendants are charged with stealing the PM3000 source code from AMSC on March 7, 2011, and transmitting it by downloading it from an AMSC computer in Wisconsin to a computer in Klagenfurt.
The indictment alleges that following the theft of AMSC’s intellectual property, Sinovel commissioned several wind turbines in Massachusetts and copied into the turbines software compiled from the software stolen from AMSC. The U.S.-based builders and operators of these Massachusetts turbines have cooperated in this investigation.
If convicted, Sinovel faces a maximum penalty on each count of five years of probation and a fine of twice the gross gain or loss, meaning Sinovel would face a fine for each count charged of up to twice the alleged loss of more than $800 million.
If convicted, Su, Zhao and Karabasevic each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge, 10 years in prison for theft of a trade secret and 20 years in prison for wire fraud.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being investigated by the Madison, Milwaukee and Boston offices of the FBI; the FBI Legal Attachés’ Offices in Vienna, Austria and Beijing; the FBI Criminal Investigative Division; the FBI Intellectual Property Rights Unit; the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Intelligence Service) and the Bundesministerium Fuer Justiz (Federal Ministry of Justice) in Austria; the Landeskriminalamt – Klagenfurt and the Staatsanwaltschaft – Klagenfurt (Criminal Investigative Police and State Prosecutor’s Office – Klagenfurt, Austria); and with the assistance of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy M. O’Shea and Munish Sharda, and Trial Attorney Brian Levine of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.
This case is part of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force). Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force, which is led by the Deputy Attorney General, to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. To learn more about the IP Task Force, go to: www.justice.gov/dag/iptaskforce.