Ontario judge orders up to $20 million of protesters' cash, cryptocurrency frozen

Published Feb. 18, 2022 6:02 p.m. ET

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As police worked to arrest organizers of the convoy blockading Ottawa in downtown streets, a different kind of enforcement was playing out in court, where a group of citizens secured an order freezing millions in assets belonging to convoy fundraisers and organizers.

Convoy leaders are now restricted from moving as much as $20 million in assets tied to the occupation, from bank accounts to fundraisers to cryptocurrency assets, in what’s known as a mareva order that is in effect worldwide, according to the order issued by Justice Calum MacLeod.

“It’s the first time in Canadian legal history that bitcoin and cryptocurrency has been subject to a freezing order,” said the lawyer for the class action, Paul Champ.

Champ made the application as part of the same class action lawsuit that resulted in an injunction against loud horns that had become a hallmark of the convoy, which has been a fixture in downtown Ottawa for more than two weeks.

The application was made to secure assets for the court should the larger application — compensation for disruptions the convoy has caused — be successful. That would mean some of the millions raised for the convoy could be diverted to recompense Ottawa residents.

One of the lawyers representing those in the convoy, Keith Wilson, told CTV News Toronto he would fight back against the seizing order, which was issued without any notice to convoy participants.

“The most recent order will be challenged just like we are bringing court actions to strike down all of the other government attempts to prevent Canadians from supporting a cause they believe in,” Wilson wrote in an email.

This order is separate from the order freezing funds from GiveSendGo, an American crowdfunding website, that was obtained by Ontario’s Attorney-General, and from any extra powers given to the federal government through its invocation of the Emergencies Act.

The court application describes the various ways the protesters have tried to raise money, first through a fundraiser on the platform GoFundMe, which raised more than $10 million but shut the fundraiser down and refunded most of the money. TD Bank has already applied to the court for direction on what to do with roughly $1.4 million that did make it into a personal account.

The protesters turned to GiveSendGo, an American crowdfunding platform that raised more than US$9.3 million before its funds were ordered frozen. The platform taunted Canadian authorities on Twitter. Earlier this week, a cache of donation data was revealed by hackers.

The protesters have since turned to cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, with one, Pat King, even seeking to create his own cryptocurrency, the application says. That’s why lawyers targeted the assets in numerous banks, crowdfunding websites, and at least 120 cryptocurrency wallets, the application says.

“As the Freedom Convoy’s unlawful tactics became increasingly obvious, legitimate fundraising platforms were no longer will to support them,” the application says.

In Toronto, the chief anti-money laundering officer for cryptocurrency exchange Bitbuy told CTV News they have already received a notice from the RCMP requesting further action on a list of accounts.

"There are about 34 of them," Joseph Iuso said. "What we do is we look at those addresses and compare to see if there is any interaction with us."


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