Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet has recently reported that criminal gangs are exploiting Spotify to launder the proceeds of their illegal activities.
According to the findings, these criminal groups are transforming illicit cash into Bitcoin. Then, they subsequently employ their crypto assets to purchase counterfeit streams from Telegram bots for artists under their management or influence. As a result, Spotify disburses payments for the aggregated streams, effectively facilitating income laundering for these criminal organizations.
The newspaper asserts that it has conducted interviews with members from four distinct criminal networks in Stockholm. Along with a law enforcement investigator, these individuals confirmed the utilization of Spotify in this illicit money laundering scheme.
A criminal from an anonymous gang confidently said: “I can say with 100 percent certainty that this goes on. We have paid people who have done this for us systematically.”
An undisclosed police officer from the National Operations Department disclosed to Svenska Dagbladet that they tried to notify Spotify regarding criminals using the streaming service. Nonetheless, the officer pointed out that Spotify did not return their call.
The police officer claimed that Spotify serves as a cash machine for the gangs. Criminal organizations utilize the platform to launder money acquired through drug trafficking, theft, fraudulent activities, and assassinations. A direct association exists with the gangs and, consequently, lethal violence.
While Spotify pays only approximately €0.003-€0.005 per stream (with the exact amount varying depending on location and other factors), the profitability of using it as a money-laundering tool remains uncertain.
A gang member disclosed that purchasing fake streams was a valuable means to promote artists associated with their gangs. It also aids recruitment and propaganda efforts for their organizations.
In exchange for their newfound fame, these artists receive substantial profits from Spotify, which they then share with the criminals. Rappers associated with unlawful activities have established their music enterprises, directing all earnings through this channel.
According to SvD’s reports, approximately 40,000 to 60,000 SEK before taxation can be generated from one million plays.
A criminal informant disclosed to the newspaper that criminals do not use this method to cleanse a hundred salmon, as the losses incurred along the way would be too significant. However, it is certainly a viable approach if they intend to launder a substantial amount, say millions.
Following the community’s awareness of the news, Spotify’s spokesperson affirmed that the SvD review relied on inaccurate information.
“Manipulated streams are an industry-wide challenge, and Spotify has been working hard to address this issue. That said, Spotify is not aware of any contact by law enforcement concerning the suggestions in the SVD article, nor have our internal teams found anything or been provided with any data or hard evidence that indicates that the platform is being used at scale in the fashion described.”