Convoy protesters pursue new funding, including own crypto token, as feds swoop in

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Published February 15, 2022 at 4:36 pm

OTTAWA — Figures behind the protests blockading Parliament Hill and various border crossings are championing new ways to finance their movement — including through their own crypto token — as Ottawa invokes sweeping powers to crack down on their cash flow. 

Pat King, an influential organizer, appeared in a video streamed live on Facebook Monday, hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he was invoking the Emergencies Act in hopes of bringing an end to the protests. 

The never-before-used federal legislation is designed so that Ottawa can introduce temporary measures to deal with what it deems to be a public emergency. 

The measures include the power for banks to suspend or freeze the accounts of those supporting the blockades and force crowdfunding platforms and cryptocurrencies to follow anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws.

At the end of the 24-minute video, in which King tells his supporters “don’t back off” in the face of the new federal powers, he encourages them to check out a website for a “freedom convoy token.”

The website lists King, who is identified as a so-called freedom fighter, as a founder of the token, along with several others and a team of developers. 

It instructs users to download a crypto wallet, purchase an already established token and then swap that for the convoy’s coin. 

University of Toronto finance professor Andreas Park says anyone can create a crypto token and it appears the organizers are using it as a way to fundraise online.

“What they do is they sell these tokens in return for cash,” he said.

“They create this token. You give them a token that actually has value. They can take that token, convert it to money and do their thing.”

The website itself says “being able to push our cause to a worldwide audience with no entity to control our vision meant going decentralized.” It adds that four per cent of every transaction will go into what’s called the “Freedom Convoy Foundation.”

Protesters were initially raising funds on GoFundMe. Donors contributed more than $10 million before the website pulled the plug, saying the demonstration had become an “occupation.” 

Organizers then turned to GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding platform, where it raised more than $US8.4 million before an Ontario court froze access to the funds at the request of the provincial government.

Matt McGuire, an anti-money laundering expert and cryptocurrency investigator who also reviewed the convoy’s coin, said it appears to be designed in such a way that makes it more challenging to connect the individuals who donated to the actual funds. 

“The amount of layering involved will also make it difficult to know the ultimate use of the funds,” he said. 

King’s video Monday evening also teased another fundraiser for supporters to use. A woman who was identified as “Dayna” from within the movement touted a website that paired donors with a family or a truck driver in need of support funds. 

By Tuesday afternoon, that website was no longer available. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2022.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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