CRYPTO FREEZE: Ontario Court uses rare injunction to freeze $20 million

Keean Bexte

March 1, 2022

A rare injunction signed by Justice Calum MacLeod has been extended until March 9, keeping roughly $20 million, including millions in cryptocurrency, frozen while a class-action lawsuit is settled against Convoy organizers and protesters.

The injunction in question is the Mareva order, a “powerful instrument of fraud recovery,” which allows courts to freeze assets to prevent a “serious risk that the defendant will remove property or dissipate assets before judgment or thwart tracing.”

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However, it is only supposed to be used when “the plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted.” This should raise some eyebrows, as the Convoy protests in Ottawa are all but over, and there is no apparent reason to believe that any “harm” will occur, including disruption to residents’ lives.

Moreover, FINTRAC has stated that it does not believe that anyone involved in the Convoy posed a violent, extremist threat.

It is also noteworthy that this is the first time the Mareva order has been used to target assets in the form of cryptocurrency in Canada.

Lawyer Paul Champ says that the order is the “first of its kind,” adding, “We were able to get some of the defendants to transfer all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency that was in their control to an independent escrow agent,” he said.

“It was a great first step for us … hopefully [for] compensation for the people and businesses and workers [in] downtown Ottawa.”

The lawsuit currently aims to address supposed civil damages and redistribute donations intended for the peaceful protesters to residents and businesses that feel affected by the protests.

According to MacLeod, the injunction has “nothing to do with any criminal proceeding that may be ongoing.”

In a document, the law firm representing Ottawa residents, Lenczner Slaght LLP, further claims, “It is not about stopping the Freedom Convoy from fundraising; it’s about protecting assets so that class members who have been recovered can hopefully get some compensation.”

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