Ottawa

'Freedom Convoy' assets to remain frozen through end of March

A rare court order meant to freeze assets belonging to organizers of the so-called Freedom Convoy is being extended through at least the end of March when the case returns to court.

Mareva injunction freezes assets belonging to organizers of convoy, including cryptocurrency

Police enforced an injunction against protesters on Feb. 19 after three weeks of demonstration in downtown Ottawa. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A rare court order meant to freeze assets belonging to organizers of the so-called Freedom Convoy is being extended through at least the end of March when the case returns to court.

Lawyers representing Ottawa residents in a proposed class-action lawsuit against the convoy protesters successfully argued for the rarely-used Mareva injunction on Feb. 17.

The Mareva order freezes particular funds from its respondents: organizers Patrick King, Tamara Lich, Christopher Garrah, Nicholas St. Louis and Benjamin Dichter, alongside the non-profit Freedom 2022 Human Rights and Freedoms.

The injunction restricts convoy leaders from "selling, removing, dissipating, alienating, transferring, assigning" up to $20 million in assets raised around the world.

On Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Calum MacLeod says he wants to allow more time for lawyers to track down assets, including cryptocurrencies, with the next court date set for March 31.

Some assets already in escrow

Court heard some holdings have already been turned over to Toronto-based KSV Advisory, the company tasked with holding assets in escrow while the various court matters involving the protests are dealt with.

A TD Canada Trust account in Lich's name, which holds $1.3 million in assets raised on the fundraising platform GiveSendGo, was voluntarily transferred to KSV. Lich was released on bail Monday and faces criminal charges for her role in the protests. 

Tamara Lich and Pat King are two of those facing charges by Ottawa police for their roles in the so-called Freedom Convoy. Their assets have also been frozen related to a class-action lawsuit. (CBC)

Lawyers representing the government were in attendance at Wednesday's hearing, telling the court there was some overlap between assets being sought by the civil matter and assets frozen as a result of the invocation of the federal Emergencies Act

Lawyers behind the Mareva order, who represent businesses and Ottawa residents, aim to redistribute donations to residents, businesses and employees of downtown Ottawa covered by the class-action lawsuit.

Crown lawyer Susan Keenan also said an application of civil forfeiture proceedings will be filed related to some of the funds raised for the protest. Essentially, that means the government will try to take some of the money being held in escrow — the same pot of money Ottawa residents involved in the proposed class-action lawsuit will seek damages from. 

Keenan said Crown lawyers are co-ordinating with colleagues involved in the class-action lawsuit on the timing of filing the forfeiture application.

A police officer watches a checkpoint near Parliament Hill on Feb. 23. These checkpoints went up one week earlier as police prepared to clear out the occupation of downtown streets. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Cryptocurrency still being sought

It remains unclear how much cryptocurrency has been recovered, but court heard one of the key crypto fundraisers for the protesters, Ottawa resident Nicholas St. Louis, had a search warrant executed on his house on Feb. 28.

According to an affidavit with Wednesday's date, four bitcoin wallets were in his possession at the time of the seizure. According to St. Louis, officers from the Ottawa Police Service, OPP and RCMP were involved in executing the warrant. He has not been charged. 

Police seized some cryptocurrency as a result of that search warrant, which has since been transferred to the escrow account, according to Crown lawyers. 

"There is still some cryptocurrency which is scattered ... and it is being identified by the cryptocurrency agencies," said Monique Jilesen, representing the law firm Lenczner Slaght and acting for Champ & Associates, the law firm working with Ottawa residents in the proposed class-action lawsuit.

With files from Priscilla Ki Sun Hwang

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