Closing arguments begin in the trial of Cameron Ortis, accused of fleeing the RCMP – National

Closing arguments are set to begin in the case of Cameron Ortis, a former senior RCMP intelligence official accused of leaking secrets to suspected criminals.

Ortis, the 51-year-old former director general of the RCMP’s Operations Research Branch, faces four counts of violating Canada’s Official Secrets Act, in addition to one count of breach of trust and misuse of a computer system.

His arrest in 2019 sent shock waves through the Canadian intelligence community. These allegations, if proven true, would constitute one of the most damaging national security leaks in recent Canadian history.

From his position at the top of RCMP intelligence, Ortis had access to a huge amount of secrets collected by both Canadian agencies and the Five Eyes security alliance. The Crown alleges he used this access to collect and send sensitive information to suspected criminals, including the head of an encrypted communications service and money launderers.

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Ortis’s defense does not dispute that he planned to send selected information to criminal elements, but argued that he had the power and did so to push targets toward a security service. email that would allow spies to monitor their communications.

The trial, which has lasted since the end of September, is unusual. Fearing that national security secrets would be revealed in a public trial, Ortis and several witnesses testified behind closed doors, with redacted transcripts of their testimony later released. Most of Ortis’ testimony in his own defense was released by the prosecution Friday afternoon.

It’s also unusual in that most of the facts in the case are agreed upon by both Crown prosecutors and Ortis’ defense team.

Among these admitted facts is that police searched Ortis’ Ottawa apartment in 2019, where they found an encrypted USB drive with a folder titled “The Project.” It included cla*sified documents that Ortis sent to Vincent Ramos, the convicted CEO of an encrypted communications company called Phantom Secure, as well as electronic correspondence between Ramos and a burner email account managed by Ortis. The documents were noted as “embargoed,” with Ortis suggesting he would send the full documents after receiving $20,000 from Ramos.

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In addition to the information sent to Ramos, the USB drive also contained documents sent anonymously to Salim Henareh and Muhammed Ashraf – two targets of money laundering investigations in Canada. Henareh and Ashraf were alleged a*sociates of Atlaf Khanani, the alleged leader of an international money laundering group that moved billions of dollars for global crime and terrorist groups, according to the US DEA.

Ortis does not deny having sent the files.

But he claims he was doing so as part of his own covert operation to trick targets into using Tutanota, an encrypted email service Ortis says was secretly run by an allied intelligence service to monitor the communications of criminals.

Ortis claims that Tutanota was a “windows” – an intelligence strategy that involved creating a front company. The German company, now called Tuta, has categorically denied operating with the intelligence services.

According to Ortis’ testimony, a foreign counterpart (national security restrictions prevent him from saying who) contacted him with information (he is not allowed to say what) that “clearly” demonstrated a “direct threat and serious” for Canada. He also said his foreign counterpart had given a “strict warning” that he should not share the information with anyone else within the RCMP.

After receiving this information, Ortis said he identified four subjects he would try to convince to start using Tutanota by dangling sensitive information and tricking them into using the email service.

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Ortis further claimed that the files he sent did not contain any information that Ramos and his a*sociates did not already know.

Asked by defense attorney Mark Ertel whether Ortis did what he did to get money or because he was a*sociated with organized crime, Ortis said no on both counts.

“In doing what you did, did you lose sight of your mission? asked Ertel.

“I have not lost sight of my mission…The mission, from the beginning of my career to the time of my arrest, was to address the threat to Canada,” Ortis responded.

The Crown argued that Ortis did not have the authority to share what is called “special operational information” and failed to meet his obligations as a person “permanently bound to secrecy.” This designation is granted to many officials in Canada’s security and intelligence apparatus and makes it an offense to share secrets “intentionally and without authorization.”

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Crown prosecutor Judy Kwlier told the jury at the start of the trial that the trail that led investigators to Ortis began with an FBI investigation into Phantom Secure, the company run by Ramos. While reviewing records seized from Phantom Secure, RCMP investigators made a “strange and alarming” discovery: someone had sent cla*sified RCMP documents to Ramos.

The sender promised more secrets in exchange for $20,000.

But in investigating Ortis’ finances, the RCMP discovered no unexplained sources of income that would suggest he received payment for records.

The Crown also suggested that in his communications with Ramos, Ortis endangered the life of an undercover RCMP officer by letting it slip that they planned to meet one of Ramos’ a*sociates at the Vancouver airport. . Ortis disagreed in his testimony that the information put the officer’s life in danger.

Kwlier told the jury there is no indication that Ortis’ actions were part of any undercover operation.

Closing arguments by the Crown and defense are expected to begin Thursday morning in an Ottawa courtroom.

— with files from the Canadian Press.

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