Financing truck convoys: no spike in “suspicious” transactions
The deputy director of intelligence at Canada’s financial intelligence agency said he had not seen a spike in “suspicious” transaction reports amid concerns about the sources of funds flowing in for the “Freedom Convoy”.
Barry MacKillop of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada (FINTRAC) said that while crowdfunding sites used to support trucker protests are not covered by the agency’s mandate, when the money transits through entities that are, suspicious transactions would be flagged.
“I can’t speak to specific reports or reports about individuals or organizations, but we haven’t seen a spike in suspicious transaction reports, for example, related to this,” he said Thursday.
MacKillop was appearing before the House National and Public Safety Committee to study the rise of ideologically motivated violent extremism in Canada and specifically the influence of foreign and domestic actors in funding violent extremist ideologies.
Questions have arisen in recent days about the extent and origin of support for the ‘Freedom Convoy’, which has staged demonstrations and blockades in various locations across Canada to protest against all COVID vaccination mandates. -19 and other public health restrictions.
More than $10 million was raised for the convoy on GoFundMe’s platform before it closed on the campaign, citing concerns about its goals. GoFundMe will appear before the committee on March 3 to testify about its involvement in organizing the fundraising campaign.
Convoy turned to Christian website GiveSendGo as its main funding platform, where it raised more than $8.2 million.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Monday that Canada has a “robust” intelligence community that will alert the government to national security concerns through foreign or other funding.
“That’s why I’m sure wherever there is such a criminal act, we will be able to act appropriately,” Mendicino said.
FINTRAC facilitates the detection, prevention and deterrence of money laundering and terrorist activity financing in Canada. It is not a law enforcement or investigative agency.
He oversees the compliance of financial entities, casinos, money services businesses, real estate and others.
“Crowdfunding sites are not a regulated industry under the law. However, when these sites transit with or through businesses subject to the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act, these financial transactions would be covered,” MacKillop said.
When asked if crowdfunding sites should be covered by law, MacKillop said the agency is always open to modernizing its approach.
“It’s really a balance that has to be struck between wanting to have as much information as possible…and respecting the privacy of individuals,” he said in French.
“We are always looking for areas that could improve our current regime.”
He explained that while many donors to the trucking convoy movement have declared themselves “anonymous”, in order to donate, people must provide personal and payment information, which is collected by money services companies such as Paypal and Stripe.
These two companies were also invited to appear as witnesses before the committee.
More details to come…