A former intelligence director with the RCMP pleaded not guilty on October 4 to disclosing secret information to suspects with ties to organized crime and terrorism financing.
Now, a retired RCMP investigator says the sensitive information allegedly leaked by Cameron Ortis, the defendant, could have jeopardized several international probes and risked the lives of officers working those cases.
On October 11, retired RCMP staff sergeant Patrick Martin told the court: “If subjects know they’re being watched […] or investigated by the RCMP or any security police force, they may change their tactics, they may stop what they’re doing altogether.”
“It would certainly affect our investigation. It could totally shut it down,” he testified.
Ortis, the RCMP’s former director general of intelligence, pleaded not guilty last week to six charges, including four under the Security of Information Act (SOIA).
The Crown claims he “intentionally and without authority” shared or tried to share “special operational information” to four individuals in 2015.
After an 18-month investigation, the federal police agency uncovered an email thread to one of the suspects, Vincent Ramos, with partial attachments on “the identity of an undercover operator that had been asked to approach Mr. Ramos and his associates.”
Ramos, a tech entrepreneur who sold hyper-encrypted phones to a Mexican cartel, received an anonymous email dated April 29, 2015 that contained 10 attachments on their “Project Saturation” investigation against him.
For a $20,000 fee, the Crown alleged Ortis offered Ramos the complete documents, reported the Ottawa Citizen.
The other persons included Salim Hanareh, Muhammad Ashraf and Farzam Mehdizadeh, all RCMP suspects in an international money laundering network operated by Altaf Khanani — a Pakistani terror financier.
According to a 2015 report by the U.S. Treasury Department, Khanani’s network laundered billions of dollars on behalf of criminal enterprises and Islamic militant groups like Hezbollah, the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
At the time, the RCMP and international partners identified Henareh, Ashraf and Mehdizadeh as “low-level” participants in Khanani’s networks, reported the National Post.
Crown prosecutors alleged that Ortis sent Henareh a document by mail detailing a plethora of confidential information about Rosco Trading — his money service company under RCMP investigation for ties to Khanani.
“I did not obtain these files legally. I ask nothing in return for sharing them with you,” reads an unsigned note supposedly written by Ortis.
After an RCMP raid of the former officer’s Ottawa apartment, they found on a USB drive a confidential report by Martin on Khanani’s money laundering network in Canada.
It also had files on the project, including RCMP documents, emails and scripts for communication to more targets of international police investigations.
On October 10, an RCMP investigator into the allegations told the court Ortis had no “lawful reason” to leak top secret intelligence to suspected criminals nor blow the cover of an undercover agent.
The retired sergeant told the court that leaking such information would jeopardize RCMP investigations, their agents and international partners.
Ortis, as a former intelligence director, had high-level access to both Canadian and allied intelligence and is bound to secrecy for life on the information he accessed.
“It could jeopardize an ongoing investigation, in this case with the Australian Federal Police, with the DEA in the United States,” testified Martin.
“The Canadian subjects being tipped off that they’re being watched by the RCMP […] it could have a ripple effect on other ongoing investigations globally,” he added.