Former RCMP intelligence director, accused of sharing classified info, awaits jury’s decision on charges
Globe and Mail
The case of Cameron Ortis, a former high-ranking civilian member of the RCMP who allegedly shared classified information with the subjects of international criminal investigations, is now in the hands of a jury. Mr. Ortis faces a total of six charges, including four for allegedly breaching the Security of Information Act, as well as allegations of unauthorized use of a computer and breach of trust. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He is currently out on bail but faces strict conditions, including wearing an ankle monitor to track his location. Inside the Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa on Monday, Mr. Ortis stared straight ahead while he listened to Justice Robert Maranger, who is overseeing the trial, provide an overview of the evidence and deliver final instructions to jurors. The major question in Mr. Ortis’s case is whether he had the authority to share the classified information. Throughout the course of his weeks-long trial, Crown prosecutors have made the case to jurors that Mr. Ortis had no such authority. Mr. Ortis’s legal team, as well as Mr. Ortis himself, have said that he did, indeed, have authority. The 51-year-old testified earlier this month that he was contacted in the fall of 2014 by a counterpart at an unnamed foreign agency who alerted him of a threat and of a plan to use a “storefront” – a fake business or entity established covertly – that would feed information into the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance and then back into the RCMP. (The Five Eyes is made up of Canada, Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.) Mr. Ortis said that he then embarked on a project called “OR Nudge,” which he has said was a plan to convince criminal targets to use an encrypted e-mail platform known as Tutanota, on which their messages would be vulnerable to interception by authorities. He has said the goal was to share intelligence with targets to lure them onto the platform. On Friday, Crown counsel Judy Kliewer told the jury during her closing statements at Mr. Ortis’s trial that there had been no such operation. She said that the very concept and alleged purpose of the so-called Project OR Nudge is a “fiction” that “doesn’t make any sense.” Outside of the courtroom, Tutanota, now known as Tuta, has denied Mr. Ortis’s claims. The company said in a statement that “the allegation that we have created any backdoor access for intelligence agencies made by Mr. Ortis is a complete and utter lie.” Three charges that Mr. Ortis faces relate to communication with international police targets, including Vincent Ramos, who owned a B.C.-based company that produced encrypted cellphones used by organized crime, and two Greater Toronto Area businessmen, Salim Henareh and Muhammad Ashraf. Another charge is linked to attempted communication with another individual, Farzam Mehdizadeh. Mr. Henareh, Mr. Ashraf and Mr. Mehdizadeh and their companies were subjects of investigation in Canada, according to the agreed statement of facts in the Ortis trial. The statement also said that from at least 2014, the RCMP, along with Five Eyes law-enforcement and intelligence agencies, investigated money-laundering activities conducted by entities believed to be associated with Altaf Khanani. Mr. Khanani, a Dubai-based owner of money-services businesses and head of an international money-laundering network, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in October, 2015. He was sentenced to 68 months in U.S. prison.