By Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press on February 11, 2022.
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says about half of the money raised for protesters blocking Parliament Hill and several border crossings comes from the United States, but an expert says trying to stop the flow of money is like playing a game of whack-a-mole.
An order recently approved by an Ontario court to freeze millions raised via GiveSendGo will be effective at least temporarily in stopping those funds from flowing into the hands of organizers, says anti-money laundering expert Matthew McGuire.
The order, obtained by the provincial government, prohibits not only the fundraising platform and organizers, but also third-party payment processors and financial institutions, from disposing of or dealing with the millions raised.
“The ban that really matters is the ban on Canadian financial institutions and payment processors from processing donations themselves. And so that it can lock them in place here,” McGuire said.
So far, about $8.8 million has been raised through the GiveSendGo campaign page, a Christian fundraising platform, and more than $700,000 has been donated through another page on the website called “Adopt -a-Trucker”.
McGuire said the order serves as notice to institutions like banks that if “you deal with funds related to this matter” you do so at your own risk.
In an affidavit filed with Ontario’s application, Ottawa Police Service Detective Chris Rhone explains how he believes the money raised through these campaigns is property related to the offence.
The officer goes on to say that the donations “facilitate the criminal act of mischief that has been committed, is being committed and is intended to be committed for as long as there are funds available to keep protesters and their trucks in Ottawa”.
The campaigns were quickly put in place last week after GoFundMe canceled a previous fundraiser that raised more than $10 million. The website said it had determined the protest in Ottawa had turned into an “occupation.”
Police and local leaders had raised concerns about crowd-funded money given how many of the hundreds of trucks and protesters driving through the nation’s capital had refused to leave, clogging streets and sidewalks and forcing nearby businesses to close.
Two weeks after their initial arrival, some trucks have left Parliament Hill, but many others have not moved. Drivers continue to honk, albeit more sporadically, given a 10-day court injunction in place to prevent the incessant honking residents have heard for days.
McGuire said nothing could prevent another campaign from springing up, which would present the same challenge for governments and police.
It’s also no wonder convoy organizers are turning to cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin, to generate funds because it’s decentralized, he said.
“You cannot serve an order on the Bitcoin system as a whole. There is no one to follow this instruction.
Earlier in the week, convoy organizers touted bitcoin as a way for supporters to ensure the protests continue, calling it offering financial freedom.
In his affidavit, Rhone refers to how the organizers are “already switching from traditional currency fundraising to bitcoin fundraising” because they believe bitcoin cannot be confiscated.
McGuire said there are many ways protesters can use cryptocurrency, including turning it into another value.
“It’s not hard to turn Bitcoin into a gift card,” he said. “It’s not difficult to load it onto a prepaid card and use it like a regular Visa.”
Trudeau said on Friday he had spoken that morning with US President Joe Biden about the influence of foreign money in funding “illegal activity” on Parliament Hill and the multi-party blockades. border posts.
“We find that almost half of the funding through certain portals that goes to the barricaders here in Canada comes from the United States,” he told reporters.
“Canadian banks are monitoring financial activity very closely and taking appropriate action. »
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 11, 2022.