The vast majority of cryptocurrency donations to the Canadian truckers' Freedom Convoy protest have evaded seizure by authorities, despite cabinet- and court-ordered freezes and financial blacklisting rendered initially under the federal Emergencies Act.
As previously reported by Rebel News, more than 200 bank accounts were frozen by cabinet order under the Emergencies Act totalling over $8 million as of late February. The Department of Finance stated that donations as small as $20 could be cause for a bank to freeze a customer's account if the contribution was made after February 15, the date the protest was declared illegal.
Despite concerted efforts by government and banks to freeze all convoy-associated assets, approximately 70% of the known $1 million worth of cryptocurrency donations have evaded seizure and appear to have reached their intended destinations.
As reported by the CBC:
The main account associated with protesters raised 20.7 bitcoins (around $1,062,674 Cdn) but as of March 18, police seem to have frozen only 5.96405398 bitcoins (around $306,176).
The majority of the remaining 70 per cent of digital currency assets has been drained from its original source, with one main self-professed crypto organizer posting videos of himself handing access information directly to convoy supporters in downtown Ottawa.
Following court documents and bitcoin movements online, CBC News pieced together a partial but elaborate web of transactions in which large sums were dispersed into hundreds of virtual wallets.
A joint-force operation involving the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and federal RCMP is currently underway attempting to recover the illicit cryptocurrency, but police efforts have reportedly been unsuccessful so far.
Federal authorities blacklisted crypto wallets associated with the convoy and demanded Canadian digital currency exchanges stop facilitating transactions, but such measures have so far failed to stop users from accessing their funds.
"There's a huge limitation, as we've seen, with freeze orders when they relate to cryptocurrency wallets," said Mathew Burgoyne, a leading Canadian digital currency lawyer based in Calgary, speaking to CBC.
"The limitation is that the crypto can simply be transferred to another wallet address that's not frozen, and then another address that's not frozen, and it can continue to be transferred in an effort to obscure the original source, or in an effort to remove the funds as much as possible from the wallet that was frozen."
The Emergencies Act was revoked on February 23, suspending all emergency orders issued under the Act — but also as reported by Rebel News, bank accounts remained frozen after that date and financial investigations continued despite suspension of all related emergency orders.
A rare civil injunction issued by the courts in February has ordered that millions of dollars worth of financial assets connected to the convoy remain frozen, well after the expiration of all executive orders issued under the Emergencies Act.
Ottawa Police tweeted a statement on February 20, prior to the revocation of the Emergencies Act, saying: "If you are involved in this protest, we will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges."
Interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell had previously promised to hunt down and charge anyone involved in the weeks-long protests in the city.
The Freedom Convoy that travelled to Ottawa was in the nation's capital for more than three weeks, with thousands of truckers and supporters converging on the city to protest government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions, including the vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers.
Despite rhetoric painting the demonstration in Ottawa as violent or criminal, on-the-ground reports and livestreams by Rebel News revealed nothing but peaceful protest by demonstrators. Senator Scott Tannas (Alta.) noted during the Senate debate on February 23 that the demonstrations yielded no deaths or significant injuries, no substantial property damage and no violence or gunplay.
That also did not stop police, who are now under investigation by Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, from deploying anti-riot weapons and using excessive force to clear the demonstration.