Fundraising for ‘freedom convoy’: No increase in suspicious transaction reporting due to protests, says financial watchdog

Fundraising for Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” has not been linked to any spike in suspicious financial transactions, that country’s currency industry watchdog has testified.

Fintrac’s deputy director testified on Thursday as the National Security Committee investigated violent extremism and those who fund it, amid protests unfolding across the country against vaccination mandates and health restrictions.

Barry MacKillop, Fintrac’s deputy director responsible for tactical intelligence and targeted strategic intelligence, said the agency has partnerships with banks, money transfer companies and foreign watchdogs that would allow it to detect possible suspicious activity arising from fundraising on platforms such as GoFundMe and GiveSendGo. , both of which were used to raise money for the protesters.

But, he said, the agency has not seen an increase in reports that reach its thresholds to alert law enforcement to possible money laundering or terrorism schemes.

“We haven’t seen a spike in suspicious transaction reporting on this,” MacKillop said. “What we’re going through right now is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

He said Fintrac generally does not view online fundraising platforms as a venue used to facilitate money laundering or terrorist financing.

Fintrac is an independent agency reporting to the Minister of Finance and responsible for ensuring public compliance with Canadian laws aimed at preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Among the data the center collects are financial transaction reports and information directly from the public.

The National Security Committee agreed last Thursday to invite GoFundMe representatives to discuss the more than $10 million raised for the Freedom Convoy through its platform, as part of a study into potential foreign interference in the “Freedom Convoy” which has occupied Ottawa for more than two weeks.

GoFundMe called off the fundraiser last Friday, citing evidence from Ottawa police that the cause had become an “occupation” rather than a peaceful protest. He reimburses all donations to the fund and is always asked to appear before the national security committee.

On Thursday, Liberal Taleeb Noormohamed decided to broaden the scope of the committee’s study to include not only the rise of ideologically motivated violent extremism in Canada and the influence of foreign and domestic actors in its funding, but also to interview representatives of GiveSendGo, Paypal and Stripe, as well as national security agencies and the police of Canada.

GiveSendGo is the Christian fundraising site that quickly became the alternative fundraising platform for Convoy after the GoFundMe page was canceled. Another fundraiser was launched on Bitcoin fundraising site TallyCoin, but it was not named in Noormohamed’s motion.

MacKillop was questioned Thursday by Liberal committee members on whether he thinks there are any policy gaps that could be filled to help the agency track potentially nefarious money transactions taking place at collection sites. funds such as GoFundMe and GiveSendGo.

MacKillop responded that while fundraising websites are not required to report potentially suspicious donations directly to agencies such as Fintrac or the equivalent in the United States, such donations are not really hidden from surveillance. because they “intersect” with other types of businesses that have reporting requirements.

This includes money transfer apps, such as Stripe and Paypal, which process donations, and banks, which see donations as they are deposited.

He said the agency is always looking for ways to improve its surveillance methods and other areas that could be included in its reports.

“We really have to find a balance between what could be imposed as a burden and the information that could be received,” he said.

Sectors that Fintrac plans to include in its regime include online fundraising and digital currencies.

With file by Jeremy Nuttall

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