Once the employees and contractors involved in the conspiracy received the bribes, they then reinstated these suspended merchant accounts and product listings on the Amazon Marketplace
Six people, including an Indian national and an Indian-American, were indicted by a US grand jury on September 18 for conspiring to pay over $100,000 in commercial bribes to employees and contractors of Amazon for unfair competitive advantage on its merchant platform.
Here's everything you need to know about the case:
-- All six were accused of resorting to bribery and fraud to benefit merchant accounts on Amazon's Marketplace, where anyone can sell goods. The accused had been using this method since 2017.
--This resulted in almost $100 million worth of competitive benefits to those accounts. It directly affected competitors and consumers, according to the US Department of Justice.
--The two accused, one of whom is an Indian national and the other of Indian origin, have been named: Nishad Kunji, 31, from Hyderabad and Rohit Kadimshetty, 27, from California.
-- Other accused in the case are Ephraim Rosenburg, 45, Joseph Nilsen, 31, and Kristen Leccese from New York and Hadis Nuhanoviv, 30, from Georgia.
-- The charges levied on the accused are conspiracy to use a communication facility to commit commercial bribery, conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorisation and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
-- The indictment alleges that they served as consultants to so-called third-party (3P) sellers on the Amazon Marketplace. Those 3P sellers consisted of individuals and entities who sold a wide range of goods, including household goods, consumer electronics, and dietary supplements on Amazon's multi-billion-dollar electronic commerce platform.
--Apart from the consultation, some of the defendants, including Nilsen, Leccese and Nuhanovic, made their own sales on the Amazon Marketplace through 3P accounts they operated. In the course of the conspiracy described in the indictment, they paid bribes to at least 10 different Amazon employees and contractors, including Kunju, who accepted bribes as a seller-support associate in Hyderabad, before becoming an outside consultant who recruited and paid bribes to his former colleagues.
--Once the employees and contractors involved in the conspiracy received the bribes, they then reinstated these suspended merchant accounts and product listings on the Amazon Marketplace, as well as facilitated attacks against competitors.
--They also misappropriated Amazon's highly confidential business information and circumvented Amazon's internal limits on 3P accounts.
--The six accused will make their first appearance at the US District Court in Seattle on October 15, the US Department of Justice said.
--According to US Attorney Brian Moran, the ultimate victims are those that buy from such e-commerce websites. This is because they may receive inferior or even dangerous goods that should have been removed from the marketplace.
--"Realising they could not compete on a level-playing field, the subjects turned to bribery and fraud in order to gain an upper hand," said Raymond Duda, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Seattle.
-What's equally concerning is not only did they attempt to increase sales of their own products, but sought to damage and discredit their competitors, Duda said, adding that this indictment should send a message that the FBI will not sit on the sidelines while criminals try to cheat their way to the top.
--In a statement, Amazon said, "The company works hard to build a great experience for customers and sellers, and bad actors like those in this case detract from the flourishing community of honest entrepreneurs that make up the vast majority of its sellers."
--The e-retailer also has several systems in place to detect suspicious behaviour by sellers or employees. They also have teams in place who can investigate and stop prohibited activity, according to Amazon.
"We are especially disappointed by the actions of this limited group of now former employees, and appreciate the collaboration and support from law enforcement to bring them and the bad actors they were entwined with to justice," the company said.With inputs from PTI