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COVID-19

New rules going after blockade financing an overreach, critics say

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TORONTO — The federal government’s move to use expanded financial powers to crack down on the trucker protests is being called a severe overreach by financial crime experts, while details remain scarce on how some of the directives will be implemented.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Monday that crowdfunding platforms will now fall under anti-money laundering reporting requirements and financial institutions are being asked to freeze account services to both individual and business clients who they suspect are aiding the blockades.

Freeland said the actions, brought in through the Emergency Act, were necessary to end the illegal blockades that are causing serious harm to the economy as well as threatening democratic institutions and Canada’s international standing.

She said it was important to follow the money to help put an end to the blockades, and that trucks that remain at the protests will have their insurance suspended, and corporate accounts will be frozen.

Flagging financial accounts under the legislation could, however, financially ruin those targeted and make it difficult for them to get financial services in the future, said Kim Manchester, managing director of financial intelligence training company ManchesterCF.

“It’s very tough on people when the activities of the Canadian government can lead to the financial meltdown of individuals associated with the protests who are guilty by association, by directive, and not by judicial process.”

He noted that the legislative framework around the laws was crafted to target terrorists and transnational organized crime, so when individuals are flagged under the system, banks and other financial institutions may be reluctant to deal with related accounts flagged as high risk.

“Any financial institution who becomes aware of, or is informed to them by government, may be incredibly leery about dealing with that individual.”

Invoking the Emergency Act is entirely out of proportion to the threats posed by the protesters and should be reserved for severe emergencies or when national security is compromised, said Manchester.

Vanessa Iafolla, a financial crime consultant, said the use of the act was a “serious derivation from the normal democratic processes that we generally expect to see in Canadian society” and that the government could have gone about changing the rules without undertaking emergency powers.

“I have real concerns about the precedent that this sets for future protests in Canada.”

She said that while accounts won’t necessarily be shut down overnight, banks will have the option to eliminate from the market anyone involved in the protests.

Iafolla said that it will be up to the banks to decide on their individual risk tolerance, but that on the money services business at least, which helps underpin crowdfunding sites, Canadian financial institutions have been fairly risk averse.

Banks have so far declined to comment on the announcement, while Intact Insurance spokeswoman Kate Moseley-Williams said the company was carefully reviewing the announcement and awaiting further details.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada said in a statement that it recognizes the negative impacts of the illegal blockades, and said that the association and its members will work with the federal government to determine how best to implement the proclamation.

How banks and other financial institutions decide which individuals and businesses to target is a key question yet to be answered, said Matt McGuire, a forensic accountant and practice leader at the AML Shop.

He said that while there’s potential for abuse of the powers and that the lack of appeals process is concerning, the actions will also likely be helpful in ending the blockades.

“I think this is as close to as effective as they could get.”

The strategy of targeting individuals may get around the problem of new crowdfunding options popping up to replace ones that get cut off, he said.

The Ontario government, for example, successfully petitioned an Ontario court to freeze funds raised through GiveSendGo, though the Christian fundraising platform says it is still looking for ways to continue fund flows.

Protesters are also looking to cryptocurrency to raise funds, including a Freedom Convoy Token that has emerged.

The expanded rules around crowdfunding sites also include cryptocurrencies, with the platforms now expected to report to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

The expansion of Fintrac will increase disclosures around fundraising platforms, while numerous entities are already required to report to the financial intelligence unit including chartered banks, credit unions, insurers and securities dealers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2022.

Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press

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Brownstone Institute

FOIA Doc Shows BioNTech Founders Postdated Start of C19 Vax Project

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Robert KogonROBERT KOGON

As noted in my last article on BioNTech’s “brazen” avoidance of safety testing of its Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech founders Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci claim in their book The Vaccine that the company’s Covid-19 vaccine project got underway on January 27, 2020. But documentary evidence released in response to a FOIA request (and included in the so-called “Pfizer documents”) shows that this is not true and that the company had in fact already begun preclinical, i.e. animal, testing nearly two weeks earlier, on January 14.

BioNTech R&D STUDY REPORT No. R-20-0072 is available here. The report is also referenced and discussed in an FDA submission on the preclinical study program that is available here. The below screenshot shows the study dates from p. 8 of the report.

In the book, Sahin claims furthermore that he only even became interested in the outbreak in Wuhan on January 24, after reading an article in the German weekly Der Spiegel (p. 4) and/or a submission to The Lancet (p. 6). But look again at the study dates above. BioNTech had already completed the first preclinical study for its Covid-19 vaccine the day before!

January 24, 2020 was a Friday. On Sahin’s account, he took the decision to launch his Covid-19 vaccine project over the weekend and unveiled his plans to his collaborators at BioNTech’s headquarters in Mainz, Germany on the following Monday: January 27 (ch. 2 passim and p. 42; see screencap below).

Sahin claims (p. 33) that it was at this January 27 meeting that he asked BioNTech’s animal testing team to prepare the preclinical program that was in fact already underway!

It should be noted that January 14, 2020, the start-date of the first preclinical study, was just two weeks after the first report of Covid-19 cases in Wuhan and just a day after the release of the full SARS-CoV-2 genome (drafts had been released previously).

BioNTech’s first preclinical study was evidently prepared before publication of the genome and in anticipation of it. As explained in the summary of the study (p. 6), its purpose was to test BioNTech mRNA formulated in lipid nanoparticles produced by the Canadian firm Acuitas. But the mRNA was here encoding a proxy antigen (luciferase), not the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 that would later serve as the target antigen.

The study looked at both biodistribution and immune system activation. As the FDA submission on the preclinical program puts it, “Platform properties that support BNT162b2 were initially demonstrated with non-SARS-CoV-2 antigens” (2.4 NONCLINICAL OVERVIEW, p. 7).

In The Vaccine, which was written with the journalist Joe Miller, Sahin and Türeci talk about the need to obtain the Acuitas lipids, which, they say, were more suitable for intramuscular injection than BioNTech’s own in-house lipids. But, again, they postdate the matter. Thus, on p. 52, we read: “The missing piece was still Acuitas, who had not yet consented to the use of their lipids. Then, on the morning of Monday 3 February, [Acuitas CEO] Tom Madden offered his help.” But BioNTech was already running tests using the Acuitas lipids three weeks earlier!

Furthermore, BioNTech was not able to formulate its mRNA into the lipids itself, but depended on the Austrian company Polymun to do this for it. As noted in The Vaccine (p.51), Polymun’s facilities are an 8-hour drive from BioNTech’s headquarters in Mainz. In the book, Sahin and Türeci describe the first batch of mRNA for the vaccine tests proper being packed up and driven by car to Polymun outside Vienna: “A couple of days later, a small Styrofoam box containing frozen vials full of vaccine would be driven back over the border to BioNTech” (pp. 116-117).

But presumably this same back-and-forth had to have occurred with the mRNA encoding the luciferase. This means that as a practical matter “Project Lightspeed” must have gotten underway even earlier: at least several days before the January 14 start date of the study.

Why did Sahin and Türeci postdate the launch of their Covid-19 vaccine project in their book? Well, undoubtedly because the actual start date – and we do not know when exactly the actual start date was – would have seemed far too soon. Based on the above considerations, it must have been at the latest just days after the first December 31, 2019 report of Covid-19 cases in Wuhan.

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  • Robert Kogon

    Robert Kogon is a pen name for a widely-published financial journalist, a translator, and researcher working in Europe. Follow him at Twitter here. He writes at edv1694.substack.com.

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Alberta

Preston Manning picked to chair review of Alberta’s COVID response

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Premier Danielle Smith has struck a committee to investigate how the Alberta government responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and has appointed former Reform Party leader Preston Manning to chair it.

Smith, in a statement, says Manning and the panel will take feedback virtually from experts and the public, then issue a final report and recommendations by Nov. 15.

Manning is to pick the other panel members subject to approval by Smith.

The budget is $2 million, and Manning is to be paid $253,000.

Manning and Smith have been critical of government-imposed health restrictions such as masking, gathering rules and vaccine mandates during the pandemic.

Smith has questioned the efficacy of the methods and their long-term effects on household incomes, the economy and mental health.

She has criticized both Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the former chief medical officer of health, and the Alberta Health Services board for failing to provide good advice and help prepare for the pandemic, which she says forced the government to impose health restrictions and vaccine mandates.

Smith replaced Hinshaw and the board shortly after taking office in October.

The premier said Alberta needs to be ready for future health emergencies.

“There are valuable lessons we learned from the Alberta government’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” Smith said in the statement Thursday.

“It’s important that we apply those lessons to strengthen our management of future public health crises, and the panel’s recommendations will be key in doing so.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2022.

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