Ottawa

Battle over convoy cash continues as freeze order extended to May

As of March 30, nearly $2 million in assets are currently being held in escrow as lawyers representing Ottawa residents square off against convoy leaders over what will ultimately happen to the money. 

Nearly $2M in assets now in escrow

Workers use heavy equipment to remove temporary fencing and supplies from the Parliament Hill area in Ottawa on Feb. 23, 2022. An anti-pandemic rule and anti-government protest had been pushed out in the days before this. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

A rare injunction stemming from the lawsuit that halted honking in downtown Ottawa during the so-called Freedom Convoy protests has once again been extended until May.

Lawyers representing Ottawa residents in a proposed class-action lawsuit against convoy protesters successfully argued for a Mareva injunction on Feb. 17, a court order meant to restrict convoy leaders from "selling, removing, dissipating, alienating, transferring, assigning" up to $20 million in assets raised around the world. 

As of March 30, nearly $2 million in assets are in escrow — a third party container account that will hold assets until further orders from the court — as lawyers representing Ottawa residents square off against convoy leaders over what will ultimately happen to the money. 

On Thursday, Superior Court Justice Calum MacLeod simultaneously extended the injunction and adjourned a motion made by defendants, including Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, to have the matter thrown out altogether. 

A lengthy court filing detailing the defendants' positions was filed Thursday.

Lawyers representing Ottawa residents want the injunction to be extended to ensure all the money involved in the protests included in the civil case has been moved to the escrow account. Their goal is for that money to be used to cover any award of damages in the proposed class action. 

"Without knowing yet whether there are any additional assets which are not yet subject to the escrow order, the injunction should be extended until we have that assurance," said Monique Jilesen, a lawyer with Lenczner Slaght who is involved in the civil case against the protest organizers.

The matter returns to court in May.

Escrow agent reports on assets currently held

According to a report filed by KSV Restructuring Inc., the third-party agent responsible for overseeing the funds, the majority of money currently in its possession is from a bank account Lich had access to as a result of her role in organizing the "Freedom Convoy 2022" fundraising campaign. 

Two personal TD bank accounts that Lich had access to transferred $1,393,399 to the escrow agent on March 16. 

Funds from the "Adopt-a-Trucker" campaign totalling $141,482 was moved into escrow on March 23, and a $10,000 bank draft made payable to the protester's not-for-profit, Freedom 2022 Human Rights and Freedoms, was put into escrow March 28.

Roughly $450,327 in digital currencies was also moved into escrow between March 7 and March 22 from three class-action respondents — although it is not clear which ones. 

Attorney general seeking civil forfeiture

In a separate but related matter, lawyers representing the Attorney General of Ontario are seeking a civil forfeiture — used to seize assets associated with unlawful activity — of the money held in escrow.

They filed an application for a forfeiture order on March 25, arguing the money is the proceeds of illegal activity. 

To avoid a conflict with the class-action lawsuit, the attorney general is seeking the forfeiture only to the extent that it does not interfere with any damages paid to claimants involved in the proposed class action.

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