A former Amazon.com Inc. employee in India was charged by the U.S. with taking more than US$100,000 in bribes to give select merchants an advantage over competitors selling goods ranging from electronics to dietary supplements.

The illegal arrangement with consultants based in New York, California and Georgia who advise sellers on the online marketplace started as early as 2017, and allowed them to reap US$100 million worth of competitive benefits, according to an indictment announced Friday.

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

The Indian employee charged was identified as Nishad Kunju, 31, of Hyderabad. Others indicted are Ephraim Rosenberg, 45, of Brooklyn, New York; Joseph Nilsen, 31, and Kristen Leccese, 32, of New York City; Hadis Nuhanovic, 30, of Acworth, Georgia; and Rohit Kadimisetty, 27, of Northridge, California.

They were 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 and wire fraud.

Amazon said it has systems in place to detect suspicious activity by employees and sellers and teams that investigate prohibited activity.

“Bad actors like those in this case detract from the flourishing community of honest entrepreneurs that make up the vast majority of our sellers,” the company said in a statement.

More than half the goods sold on Amazon’s website come from independent merchants who give Amazon a cut of each sale. Selling on Amazon is so competitive it has created a cottage industry of consultants who help merchants. Amazon’s introduction of paid advertising on the site, which allows merchants to pay for better visibility in search results, has increased the competitive pressure on.