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U.S. Justice Department indicts six with conspiracy to pay bribes to Amazon employees

FILE PHOTO: An Amazon logo is seen at its centre in Darlington, County Durham, Britain September 3, 2020. REUTERS/Lee Smith

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department said on Friday six people have been indicted by a grand jury in Washington state with conspiring to pay commercial bribes to employees and contractors of Amazon.com Inc.

Those indicted planned to pay over $100,000 in exchange for an unfair competitive advantage on the Amazon marketplace - a platform where third-party merchants sell goods, the Department said.

The defendants used bribery and fraud to reinstate products and accounts that Amazon had suspended or blocked entirely from doing business on its marketplace. That resulted in more than $100 million of competitive benefits to those accounts, harm to competitors and harm to consumers, according to the indictment.

“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,” U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said in a statement.

An Amazon spokesman said the company worked with the Justice Department on the case and that it has systems in place to detect suspicious behavior by sellers and employees.

“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 spokesman said.

The company’s third-party marketplace has come under heavy scrutiny from lawmakers and regulatory agencies looking at Amazon’s business practices on the platform and whether it hurts small sellers.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington and Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Dan Grebler, Kirsten Donovan

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