Criminal networks in Sweden launder money through fake Spotify streams.

Criminal networks in Sweden launder money through fake Spotify streams.

Spotify Used by Criminal Networks to Launder Money through Fake Streams

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In a shocking revelation, it has been uncovered that criminal networks have been exploiting Spotify, one of Sweden’s largest music streaming platforms, to launder money. Svenska Dagbladet (SvD), a prominent Swedish newspaper, recently conducted an in-depth investigation into this illicit practice. The ingenious scheme involves purchasing fake streams of music, boosting the popularity of artists with ties to these criminal groups, and ultimately cashing in on the orchestrated success.

The investigation was prompted by analysts at the National Operative Unit of the Swedish Police Force who had been closely monitoring rappers who were publishing their music on Spotify since autumn 2021. Initially, the focus was on deciphering potential clues and gathering information about crimes from the lyrics of these artists. However, as they delved deeper into the streaming patterns, suspicions arose regarding the exploitation of Spotify for a different purpose altogether.

Subsequent interviews conducted by SvD journalists with individuals connected to these criminal networks or knowledgeable about the fight against streaming bots confirmed that Spotify has indeed been used for money laundering since 2019. The process allegedly begins with these networks purchasing Bitcoin through cash transactions facilitated by a Facebook group. The cryptocurrency is then used to pay for fabricated streams, which entail plays of music by bots, hacked accounts, or other fraudulent methods. Telegram appears to be the platform of choice for this transaction, earning the sellers the moniker “Telegrambots.”

But how exactly does this scheme launder money? The strategy relies on the premise that higher stream counts lead to improved rankings on music lists. As the rankings soar, genuine streams increase, benefiting artists affiliated with these criminal gangs who have set up their own record labels to capitalize on the inflated popularity. The artists receive legitimate payouts from Spotify, effectively cleansing the illegal funds. Additionally, the artists gain a sense of “legitimacy” by associating themselves with these criminal networks, leading to increased recognition and streaming numbers. Remarkably, some artists have accumulated tens of millions of streams on the platform.

However, there are risks involved in this illegal endeavor. Spotify has been actively combating bot streaming and has the authority to cease payments to accounts implicated in illicit activities. Additionally, Spotify’s payout structure, which takes into account factors such as free versus premium accounts and the listener’s location, may lead to some financial losses along the way.

According to sources cited by SvD, this method of laundering money is only viable when dealing with amounts exceeding a few million Swedish krona (approximately €84,000). Considering that Spotify has already distributed a staggering $40 billion (€37.2 billion) to the music industry since its inception, this illicit activity represents a small portion of the platform’s overall operations.

TNW (The Next Web) reached out to Spotify for a comment on these alarming revelations but did not receive a response at the time of publication. SvD, on the other hand, tried to secure an interview with Spotify for weeks but was only able to obtain an email response stating that the streaming giant had no evidence to suggest that its service was being exploited for money laundering purposes.

While this discovery sheds light on a concerning issue within the music industry, it also highlights the growing sophistication of criminal networks in exploiting technology platforms for their illicit activities. As authorities and platforms like Spotify strive to combat such practices, it is crucial to maintain a robust and vigilant approach to ensure the integrity of digital ecosystems.