Millions of dollars raised by the so-called “Freedom Convoy” have either been returned to donors or are still stranded in court – but thousands of dollars have been paid out to protesters in the convoy through a crypto-campaign. coins and cash envelopes, the Emergencies Act inquiry announced Thursday.
The Public Order Emergency Commission this morning heard evidence of donations to the protest being made through electronic transfers, cryptocurrency and fundraising platforms like GiveSendGo and GoFundMe.
Despite raising millions of dollars to support their cause through crowdsourcing sites, convoy organizers have been barred by court orders from accessing most of those funds.
But an overview report compiled by the Public Order Emergency Commission said that as of Jan. 27, an Ottawa man — Nicholas St. Louis — was able to raise around $1.2 million in cryptocurrency for convoy protesters via Tallycoin, a crowdfunding platform that allows individuals to donate small amounts of Bitcoin at no cost.
The commission is examining the circumstances that led the federal government to invoke the Emergencies Act to quell the crowds and vehicles that blocked Ottawa streets for weeks last winter.
The Honk Honk Hodl cryptocurrency campaign was able to distribute about $800,000, said the report, which was released Thursday ahead of the investigation.
“This was accomplished by distributing physical envelopes containing instructions on how to access approximately $8,000 worth of Bitcoin using a cell phone,” he said.
WATCH | Commission lawyer explains protest convoy finances
The commission said about 100 e-wallets were prepared and distributed on February 16 to people attending the Ottawa protests.
According to the report, St. Louis shut down the Tallycoin fundraiser on Feb. 14, and in a Feb. 19 video on Twitter Spaces said most of the remaining Bitcoin was in a “multisig wallet” — a wallet. digital that requires a minimum number of electronic “signatures” to authorize money transfers.
Money put back in envelopes, said the treasurer
The commission’s summary report also says many participants in the protests left cash donations in tents that collected money to buy fuel and food. The report says the money was then transferred to the Swiss Hotel in Ottawa, where Chad Eros, who acted as treasurer for the convoy, was staying.
“A system was then put in place where the money was placed in numbered envelopes of $500 each. People would then sign these envelopes and distribute them to truckers,” the report said.
“Records were kept of who received envelopes, and that information was tracked on a spreadsheet.”
Eros told the commission he estimated about $20,000 in cash passed through the Swiss hotel each day from collecting donations on the main stage.
He said a similar system was in place at another hub outside of the ARC Hotel in downtown Ottawa.
“Mr. Eros did not have direct knowledge of the source of their funding, but understood that the individuals would bring money to the ARC hotel, which would be processed and placed in envelopes amounting to $2,000. CA before being distributed to protesters,” the commission’s report said.
A mysterious donor wanted to bring the government to its knees: Eros
In his interview with the commission, Eros said that on February 10 the leader of the Coventry Road protest camp called him to say that a very wealthy and prominent businessman wanted to have a meeting with the leaders of the protest of Swiss hotels over a large donation.
“The businessman only spoke French and needed an interpreter. He offered to donate $500,000 worth of fuel in exchange for his brand to be everywhere in the protest,” reads a summary of that interview.
“He also wanted the convoy organizers to order truckers to block Canadian borders and bring the government to its knees.”
Eros told the commission that he spoke up at the time to say the convoy was a protest and that he wanted nothing to do with the potential donor’s plan.
The convoy’s accountant-turned-treasurer said everyone in the room at the time suspected the businessman was an agent provocateur or a government factory because his proposal was so ridiculous and incriminating, according to his summary maintenance.
Lich says managing money has become overwhelming
The report also explained how most of the millions of dollars raised by online protesters ended up in an escrow account or returned to donors.
One of the movement’s most high-profile fundraisers was a GoFundMe campaign launched by Tamara Lich, one of the protest’s main spokespersons.
Lich told the inquest on Thursday that she was “blown away” once the campaign hit the $1 million mark. The GoFundMe page would eventually exceed $10 million.
“It was very exciting and exhilarating, of course, but at the same time I felt more and more anxious,” she said.
WATCH | Lich testifies at Emergencies Act inquiry
“Because from my perspective, when you talk about that kind of money, lawyers come in. And here we are today.”
She said that as the protest continued, managing the money became an overwhelming responsibility.
“I felt like some people weren’t seeing me, they were just seeing $10 million above my head,” said Lich, who added that it was like vultures circling.
“Everyone wanted to know about the money.”
The commission’s report showed that most of the funds raised for the protest were of Canadian origin.
Millions of dollars frozen, returned
According to information provided by GoFundMe to the commission, the self-proclaimed Freedom Convoy 2022 campaign had 133,836 donors. About 86% of those donations — 107,000 — came from Canada.
The site said 14,000 donors were in the United States.
GoFundMe suspended the page over concerns that the convoy protest violated its rules on violence and harassment, according to a commission report presented Thursday morning.
It says around 93% of all donations to the “Freedom Convoy 2022” campaign have been refunded. The remaining refunds are pending settlement or, in the case of 144 donations, are subject to chargebacks or disputes.
According to court documents, $1 million paid into Lich’s TD bank account was frozen and ultimately paid into escrow.
After GoFundMe ended the convoy campaign, fundraising moved to another crowdfunding platform – GiveSendGo, which bills itself as a “Christian fundraising site.”
According to information provided to the commission by GiveSendGo, the “Freedom Convoy 2022” campaign it hosted received donations from 113,152 donors for a total of US$9,776,559.
On February 10, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted a request by the provincial government to freeze access to millions of dollars donated online through GiveSendGo.
A court also granted what is called a Mareva injunction on Feb. 17 on behalf of Ottawa residents pursuing a proposed class action lawsuit against convoy leaders and protesters. This injunction froze millions of dollars in cryptocurrency and other financial donations to the protest.
As part of this injunction, a receiver was appointed to receive and hold the frozen funds.
Outside of crowdfunding sites, Lich accepted wire transfers to TD bank accounts.
During Mareva’s legal proceedings, Lich said that – of the $26,000 withdrawn from those accounts – $10,000 was used to pay a bulk fuel supplier called fillerup.ca$3,000 was paid to a bulk fuel supplier in Quebec and $13,000 was withdrawn in cash and used for “various purposes.”
Ottawa residents, business associations, government officials and police officers have already testified at the public hearings. Hearings are scheduled to continue through Nov. 25 and culminate with testimony from federal leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.