Almost $8M of ‘Freedom Convoy’ donations still unaccounted for, documents show
The convoy protest in Ottawa raised more than $20 million over its three-week occupation of the city’s downtown. Court filings show how protest organizers spent their money, and how much of it remains unspent or unaccounted for.
A report filed by KSV Restructuring Inc., the third-party agent responsible for overseeing recovered money, shows it is holding a little under $2 million of the roughly $24 million raised by various campaigns supporting the weeks of occupation of downtown Ottawa streets.
Most of the money in escrow stems from Tamara Lich, the convoy leader who had access to the majority of the money through her role in organizing the protest, for which she has since been charged. The crowdfunding efforts she led raised nearly $10.1 million from 120,000 donors 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.
“All refunds were initiated via our payment processing partner, including all transaction processing fees and tips, and those funds were returned to donors in the subsequent days,” it said in a statement.
The almost $1.4 million that remained in Lich’s possession was transferred into escrow and that makes up the bulk of the more than $1.5 million held by KSV Restructuring.
Unclear where GiveSendGo funds have gone
It’s not clear where most of the money raised through GiveSendGo has gone. Fundraisers launched on the US-based site raised more than $12 million.
Recently filed court documents show $4.25 million is being held by a payment processing company, but the remaining $7.75 million is unaccounted for.
During a March 9 short appearance, GiveSendGo co-founder and chief financial officer Jacob Wells said donations would be returned to donors.
Some donors to the GiveSendGo site confirmed to CBC they received a refund, while others said they had not.
When asked by CBC, the company refused to disclose the total amount reimbursed to donors.
Two fundraisers on the site were responsible for raising money for the protests: the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser raised almost $12.2 million from nearly 113,000 donations, while a second Adopt a Trucker fundraiser raised $739,308.87 from 8,375 donations.
More crypto captured, most still evades capture
Roughly $419,316 in digital currencies was moved into escrow between March 7 and March 22 from three class-action respondents. The remaining digital currency raised as part of convoy fundraisers continues to evade authorities.
The main account associated with protesters raised 20.7 bitcoin (worth almost $1.1 million Cdn) but as of March 29, only 7.6 bitcoin (worth $419,316 Cdn) had been secured by the escrow agent.
Most of the digital currency was 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 where large sums were dispersed into hundreds of virtual wallets.
Authorities are believed to be tracking the movements of those wallets, but the identities of those who received them remain largely unknown to the public.
Details on how Lich handled convoy funds
In a sworn affidavit filed in court, Lich said she was involved in the creation of the crowdfunding campaign for the “Freedom Convoy” on the GoFundMe platform.
She said she used a personal TD bank account, which had no balance, as the designated account to hold funds donated to GoFundMe.
An email address was set up to accept donations, which also went into a personal account belonging to her. At the time, she was the only person with access to the donations.
In late January, a “finance committee” was formed and protest organizers, including Lich, set up a “Freedom Convoy Code of Conduct,” a “Letter to Captains,” and a registration form to participate in the protest.
On Jan. 30, organizers looked to further formalize the “Freedom Convoy” by incorporating a not-for-profit corporation, Freedom Corp.
When GoFundMe released $1 million of donated funds on Feb. 2, it did so into Lich’s personal account she designated for the protest.
Lich’s affidavit states “this was done because Freedom Corp. did not have a bank account and time was of the essence to start funding those we raised donations for.”
Two days after sending her $1 million, GoFundMe said it closed the campaign, citing violations of its rules on violence and harassment, with all remaining donations being returned directly to individual donors.
Lich said that the same day she received the GoFundMe money, a “hold” was placed on her account associated with the Freedom Convoy. She said the bank didn’t prevent money from being deposited into the account, but funds could not be withdrawn.
While she had access to the money provided by GoFundMe, Lich said she completed approximately $26,000 in transactions.
She spent $13,000 on bulk fuel purchases and another $13,000 was “withdrawn in cash and utilized for various purposes,” she said.