A newspaper investigation in Sweden has revealed that criminal gangs are using fake Spotify streams to launder money.
The Svenska Dagbladet report (via The Guardian) claims that gang members take the money they make through criminal activity, including drug deals and contract killings, convert it into Bitcoin, and then pay for false Spotify streams of songs published by artists with ties to the gangs. They then take the money paid out by the platform having had it effectively cleaned in the process.
Four gang members, plus one member of the police, verified that this method has been in wide use across Sweden's criminal underworld since 2019, with some of the gangs linked to bombings and shootings in the Scandinavian country. "I can say with 100% certainty that this goes on. I have been involved in it myself," SvD said one anonymous gang member. "We have paid people who have done this for us systematically," they added.
The investigative police officer quoted in the report claimed he had contacted Spotify to alert them to the criminal activity in 2021 but had failed to receive a reply. "Spotify has become a bank machine for the gangs," they said. "There’s a direct link to the gangs and the deadly violence."
Spotify told AFP that it was unaware of any contact from the police, nor had it found “any data or hard evidence that indicates that the platform is being used at scale in the fashion described.”