Two former Amazon employee in Hyderabad and four others have been charged in a US federal court in an alleged bribery scheme that gave some third-party merchants on the platform competitive benefits worth $100 million, according to the Department of Justice.
Nishad Kunju and Rohit Kadimisetty, former seller-support associates with Amazon in Hyderabad, and four others are charged in a Seattle federal court with conspiracy to “commit commercial bribery" and to hack computer systems, the department announced on Friday.
In court documents, Kunju is accused of accepting bribes from the others before leaving the company to become an outside consultant who recruited and allegedly paid bribes to his former colleagues.
At least nine other Amazon employees besides Kunju, allegedly received the bribes, but they were not named in the court papers.
Kunju, Kadimisetty and the four others, who provide consultancy services to third-party sellers on the Amazon platform, directed over $100,000 in bribes to get directly help their clients or to harm rival sellers, the court documents said.
One of the alleged activities by ring involved in the case was to “adulterate" or illegally modify the postings of rival sellers by introducing “lewd and offensive content and images designed to drive away consumers and intimidate the victims," according to court documents.
They also allegedly reinstated third-party sellers’ accounts and product listings that had been suspended by Amazon because of safety concerns or allegations of counterfeiting enabling those merchants to generate $100 million in revenue on the Amazon Marketplace, court papers said.
The federal prosecutor in Seattle where Amazon is headquartered, Brian T. Moran said, “The ultimate victim from this criminal conduct is the buying public who get inferior or even dangerous goods that should have been removed from the marketplace."
Amazon said it worked with the prosecutors, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other investigators in the case.
It said: “Bad actors like those in this case detract from the flourishing community of honest entrepreneurs that make up the vast majority of our sellers. Amazon has systems in place to detect suspicious behaviour by sellers or employees, and teams in place to investigate and stop prohibited activity."