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Feds crack down on trucker protest financing, from crowdfund rules to freezing bank accounts

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The federal government has announced that crowdfunding platforms will now have to comply with Canada’s financial reporting rules, and is authorizing banks to freeze accounts it suspects to be involved with the Freedom Convoy’s “illegal blockades.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland gave notice on Monday that should sites like GoFundMe and GiveSendGo – the two platforms used by the convoy organizers to raise funds – wish to operate in Canada, they must immediately register with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).

“This will help mitigate the risk that these platforms receive illicit funds, increase the quality and quantity of intelligence received by FINTRAC and make more information available to support investigations by law enforcement into these illegal blockades,” said Freeland.

She announced the move as part of the government’s invoking of the never-before-used Emergencies Act to try to contain the momentum of the trucker convoy.

Meeting that objective, in part, requires cutting of the financial supply to those involved, said Freeland.

The government is directing financial institutions to “review their relationships” with anyone involved with the blockades and report them to the RCMP or CSIS.

“As of today, a bank or other financial service provider will be able to immediately freeze or suspend an account without a court order. In doing so they will be protected against civil liability for actions taken in good faith,” Freeland said.

“This is about following the money. This is about stopping the financing of these illegal blockades. We are today serving notice: if your truck is being used in these illegal blockades, your corporate accounts will be frozen.”

They’re also seizing financial institutions with the power to cut off services to those suspected of supporting the protesters.

The convoy organizers raised more than $10 million on GoFundMe, before the platform closed its doors on the movement citing concerns with its objectives. Beside the $1 million already released to the group, the rest of the money is being refunded.

They’ve since turned to Christian website GiveSendGo, where they’ve raised more than US$8.4 million as of last Thursday.

The site is “currently offline” for maintenance and server updates after reported hacks.

These sites will now be required to report to FINTRAC directly about suspicious, large cash and large virtual currency transactions.

Electronic transfers of $10,000 or more out of or into Canada in a single transactions, or in two or more transactions totalling $10,000 must also be reported.

FINTRAC already detects, prevents, and deters money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities in entities such as banks, casinos, money service businesses, and real estate.

It’s not a law enforcement or investigative agency.

“These changes cover all forms of transactions, including digital assets such as crypto currencies. The illegal blockades have highlighted the fact that crowdfunding platforms and some of the payment service providers they use are not fully captured under the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act,” said Freeland.

The government is bringing forward legislation to make these changes to FINTRAC’s mandate permanent.

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