According to a report by Svenska Dagbladet, criminal networks in the country have been using the streaming platform to launder money acquired in drug deals, robberies, contract killings, and fraud. The gang members have been able to launder money by converting cash into Bitcoin, which is then used to pay for false Spotify streams of artists connected to the gangs. When the money is paid back to them by Spotify, it has effectively been “cleaned,” so to speak.
At least four anonymous gang members from different criminal networks in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, and a police investigator, confirmed the method of laundering has been used. “I can say with 100% certainty that this goes on. I have been involved in it myself,” said one of the anonymous gang members.
The individual added that the gang he’s involved with started using the method in 2019 in response to the rise of popular Swedish hip-hop. “We have paid people who have done this for us systematically,” he said. The police officer investigating the money laundering, who also wishes to remain anonymous, said he has been unable to speak with Spotify, a Swedish company, about it.
“Spotify has become a bank machine for the gangs. There’s a direct link to the gangs and the deadly violence,” he said.
In a statement shared with AFP, the company said it was not unaware police had attempted to make contact over the alleged money laundering. Additionally, they said there is no “data or hard evidence that indicates that the platform is being used at scale in the fashion described.” However, they did acknowledge that paid-for streams remain “an industry-wide challenge and Spotify has been working hard to address this issue.”
The statement added, “Less than one percent of all streams on Spotify have been determined to be artificial and those are promptly mitigated prior to any payout.”