A U.S. judge has ordered one of China’s biggest makers of wind turbines to pay a $1.5 million fine – the maximum allowable – after the company was convicted of stealing trade secrets from a U.S. manufacturer.
The judge in Madison, Wisconsin, also sentenced Sinovel Wind Group (Sinovel) on Friday to one year of probation, during which it must pay in full a $57.5 million settlement it struck with Massachusetts-based manufacturer, AMSC.
Friday’s sentence came after a U.S. federal jury found Sinovel guilty in January on charges of conspiracy, trade-secret theft and wire fraud.
AMSC, formerly known as American Superconductor Inc., almost went out of business after Sinovel’s crime. Federal prosecutors said investors dumped more than $1 billion in AMSC stock and about 700 workers lost their jobs, more than half of the company’s global workforce.
The case centered on technology that AMSC developed to regulate the flow of electricity from wind turbines to electrical grids.
U.S. prosecutors said Sinovel entered into an $800 million contract for products from AMSC but never paid the money. Instead, prosecutors said, Sinovel used computers in Austria to steal the wind turbine technology and trade secrets from AMSC and to install them on Sinovel’s own turbines.
“Rather than pay AMSC for more than $800 million in products and services it had agreed to purchase, Sinovel instead hatched a scheme to brazenly steal AMSC’s proprietary wind turbine technology,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan.
The U.S. Justice Department said Sinovel had already paid AMSC $32.5 million of the settlement. It saidthe case was investigated by U.S. FBI agents supported by a team of FBI personnel in Vienna and Beijing.
The Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Scott C. Blader said, “This case is about protecting American ideas and ingenuity.”