Almost $6M in Freedom Convoy money captured as months-long injunction ends
Proposed class-action lawsuit to expand as millions in digital currency still evades authorities
A months-old injunction against Freedom Convoy organizers ended Monday, but the lawyers responsible for muting incessant honking in February are focused on expanding and certifying a proposed class-action lawsuit to ensure Ottawa residents and businesses are compensated.
Lawyers representing Ottawa residents in the proposed lawsuit against convoy protesters successfully argued for a Mareva injunction on Feb. 17, a court order to restrict convoy leaders from "selling, removing, dissipating, alienating, transferring, assigning" up to $20 million in assets raised around the world.
On Monday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Calum MacLeod said the injunction would be dissolved.
MacLeod did keep an escrow order that ensures a third-party agent could continue to hold just more than $5.7 million raised by the convoy protests until lawyers decide what will happen to the money.
Paul Champ, one of the lawyers involved in the proposed class-action lawsuit, originally said a broad net was cast to capture funds from the Freedom Convoy.
"We've gotten most of the funds that we were trying to freeze now," he said.
More money brought into escrow over past month
As of March 30, nearly $2 million in assets were being held by the third party, according to the escrow agent's last official report.
Then on Monday, the court ordered for roughly $3.8 million Cdn raised on the U.S.-based crowdfunding site GiveSendGo to be transferred to escrow.
The site had transferred that money to a Canadian bank account belonging to the not-for-profit corporation created by organizers. Instead the money was held by a payment processing company because of freeze orders put in place in February to prevent the money from being used by protesters.
More than $400,000 Cdn worth of digital currencies was also moved into escrow.
Proposed class-action suit set to move forward
Champ and his team are expected to expand the scope of the proposed class-action lawsuit to include thousands of defendants — including donors and more truck drivers involved — as they seek to reimburse downtown residents and businesses.
Defendants would then file their own materials before the court decides whether to certify the class-action suit.
"We finished our efforts to track and get control of all funds that were donated to support the convoy truckers and that were donated to essentially make it possible for the truckers to continue their occupation of downtown Ottawa and continue the harm of downtown Ottawa," said Champ.
His team hopes the money now in escrow "will hopefully one day go to compensating the people of downtown Ottawa."
Most funds raised for convoy returned to donors
The convoy protest in Ottawa raised more than $20 million total over its three-week stay in the city's downtown.
Tamara Lich, the convoy leader who had access to a significant amount of money through her role in organizing the protest — for which she has since been charged — helped raise nearly $10.1 million before donations were suspended.
The website used to raise that money, GoFundMe, then returned most of those funds to the original donors as of Feb. 5, the company said.
The almost $1.4 million that remained in Lich's possession was then transferred into escrow.
Two fundraisers launched on GiveSendGo raised more than $12 million and during a March 9 court appearance, GiveSendGo co-founder and chief financial officer Jacob Wells said donations would be returned to donors.
When asked by CBC, the company refused to disclose the total amount reimbursed.
Most of the digital currency raised as part of convoy fundraisers — 20.7 bitcoins (worth almost $1.1 million Cdn) — continues to evade authorities.
Authorities are believed to be monitoring the remaining bitcoins but it remains unclear if they will be successful in capturing them.