Six including an Indian charged in Amazon bribery case in US

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on September 19, 2020 Published on September 19, 2020

A Grand Jury in Washington has indicted six people with conspiring to pay over $100,000 in bribes to Amazon employees and contractors to boost third-party sellers on the Amazon Marketplace.

The six people charged in the bribery case include Nishad Kunju, 31, from Hyderabad, Rohit Kadimisetty, 27, from California, Ephraim Rosenburg, 45, Joseph Nilsen, 31, and Kristen Leccese, 32 from New York and Hadis Nuhanoviv, 30, from Georgia.

Conspiring to boost third-party sellers

They have been charged “with conspiracy to use a communication facility to commit commercial bribery, conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorization, conspiracy to commit wire fraud,” the Justice Department said in an official release.

They have been accused of bribery and fraud, providing over $100 million of competitive benefits to third party sellers since at least 2017, the Justice Department said.

“More specifically, the Indictment alleges that the defendants 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,” it said.

Kunju who used to work as a seller-support associate in Hyderabad used to recruit and bribe formal colleagues after becoming an outside consultant.

The competitive benefits included reinstating suspended merchant accounts and product listings on the e-commerce platform, sabotaging competitors, misappropriating Amazon’s highly confidential business information and bypassing the platform’s internal limits on 3P accounts.

“As the world moves increasingly to online commerce, we must ensure that the marketplace is not corrupted with unfair advantages obtained by bribes and kick‑backs,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. “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.”

“Realizing they could not compete on a level playing field, the subjects turned to bribery and fraud in order to gain the upper hand. What's equally concerning, not only did they attempt to increase sales of their own products, but sought to damage and discredit their competitors,” said Raymond Duda, Special agent in charge, FBI Seattle.

Amazon supports the investigation

Amazon in a public statement issued on Friday said that it had supported the lengthy investigation.

“Amazon is grateful to have worked with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, and the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs in their thorough pursuit of this case,” it said in its statement.

“Amazon has systems in place to detect suspicious behaviour by sellers or employees, and teams in place to investigate and stop prohibited activity. 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,” it added.

The defendants will be making their first court appearance in Seattle on October 15.

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Published on September 19, 2020
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