Investigative Report Suggests Crime Syndicates Are Leveraging Spotify to Launder Money

An explosive investigation by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet has alleged that regional criminal syndicates are laundering money through a scheme driven by fabricated Spotify popularity. 

Over the course of its investigation, the outlet interviewed anonymous members of participating crime networks and at least one anonymous police investigator. Participants would allegedly exchange fiat currency for Bitcoin and purchase fake streams for their gang-affiliated artists by way of vendors on Telegram. The artificial streams created an aura of legitimacy that would then drive real listeners to explore the music as well, thereby generating incremental revenue.

One million streams in Sweden generates roughly between $3,600 to $5,400 in the U.S. dollar equivalent. One gang member, going on the record anonymously, stated the bot managers "made sure we ended up at the top of the charts."

Meanwhile, the anonymous investigator who participated in the publication's report said that Spotify did not respond to his attempts to make the Swedish streaming giant aware of the issue. Issuing a statement, a Spotify representative said the company was unaware of the outreach.

"Manipulated streams are an industry-wide challenge and Spotify has been working hard to address this issue," reads the company's statement, per The Next Web. "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."

Spotify elaborated and said that their data suggests only 1% of streams across the platform are artificial in nature.

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