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Turkish police arrest 40 in Twitch money laundering scandal

A pair of handcuffs resting on some dollars.
(Image credit: Peter Dazeley via Getty Images.)
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Last year's Twitch leak had some unexpected outcomes, and one of the most striking was how it exposed an alleged scam involving certain Turkish streamers and money-laundering. The scandal was big enough to catch the eye of Turkish politician Gürsel Tekin, vice-president of the Republican People's Party, who in November called on the country's Financial Crimes Investigation Board to conduct an investigation.  

The newspaper Daily Sabah has reported that today the Turkish police arrested 40 individuals across 11 provinces in the country, and four suspects remain at large. The Turkish government's Chief Prosecutor's Office is running the investigation, and unspecified documents and 'digital materials' were seized as part of the raids.

The alleged scam involved using stolen credit cards to pay certain streamers in 'bits', a Twitch currency that streamers get paid for receiving. The streamers who agreed to take part in this alleged money laundering accepted enormous amounts of bits, and when they were paid the streamer kept a share and returned the rest to its source.

When the scheme was exposed several streamers copped to what had been going on: BBL Legoo, a streamer and Valorant pro, admitted to taking part in the scheme in a Twitlonger post in which he said that roughly $4000 was sent to his channel. (His Twitter account has since been suspended.) He says he was approached by a former friend with a proposition to make some extra money: Viewers would earn Bits by watching ads, presumably on his channel, and then share a portion of those Bits with him—all perfectly legal and above-board, he was assured.

"I jumped like a fool and said okay," he wrote. "Later, when I realized that the Bits were anonymous, I became suspicious and wanted to quit. But since I was on the rise at that time and the person who did it had a trump card [on me], even though I told the person many times that I didn't want to continue, I was forced to do it."

Many other prominent Twitch stars from the country have been linked to the scandal, though the Turkish authorities have not yet named those arrested in these latest raids. They did, however, specify that some of the suspects are minors.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."