In a serious of coordinated raids, Turkish police have detained 40 people suspected of involvement with a money laundering ring which allegedly used Twitch for money laundering. Supposedly they were using stolen credit card info to buy Bits (Twitch’s virtuacurrency), which they would then donate to Twitch streamers who had agreed to give money in return in exchange for keeping a portion for themselves. This first came to light following Twitch’s big data leak last year.
As Middle East Eye reported in November 2021, suspicions were raised following the huge Twitch leak in October which included earnings data for streamers. People combining over the numbers found that some streamers were receiving ludicrously large donations relative to their viewing figures. It’s suspected that they were part of a criminal network where wrong’uns would coordinate with streaming wrong’uns to launder money. People would allegedly use stolen or scammed credit card info to buy Bits on Twitch, donate Bits to the streamers, and the streamers would cash their Bits out of Twitch into real money, then pay 80% of that money back, allegedly as cryptocurrency. Stolen money comes in, cryptocash goes out.
A campaign formed to clean up Turkish streaming, including a streamer named “Grinmax”. He posted a chatlog from when he was supposedly approached to join in. Unsurprisingly, Turkish authorities were interested too.
A pair of reports from Turkey’s İhlas News Agency say that police carried out simultaneous raids in 11 places, nabbing 40 of their 44 suspects. While early reports estimated that the group had laundered around $10 million (£7m), İhlas say that they made a profit of around $1 million. Police seized electronics and documents, so perhaps new numbers will follow. And, y’know, I’m relying on machine-translated sources.
I suspect this is but the very tip of an iceberg of shady money being moved through gaming ecosystems. And hell, at times the vast sums of legitimate money moving through some of them feels shady enough.