A jury has found Cameron Jay Ortis, a former intelligence official of RCMP, the Canadian equivalent of FBI, guilty of breaching Canada’s secrets law.
The trial, described as “unprecedented” by Canadian outlet Global News, followed Ortis’ arrest in 2019 which “sent a shockwave through the Canadian security and intelligence community”.
Jurors declared Ortis guilty of three counts of violating the Security of Information Act and one count of attempting to do so.
Prosecutors argued that not only had Ortis passed information to international criminals and money launderers connected to Iran but was also in possession of classified files which could have only been of interest to foreign states and that he was on cusp of sharing them just before his arrest in 2019.
According to court documents, from at least 2014, the RCMP and multiple intelligence agencies of Canada’s close allies were investigating money laundering activities conducted by various entities associated with Altaf Khanani, a Dubai-based money service businesses owner.
These included Salim Henareh and his companies Persepolis International and Rosco Trading, Muhammad Ashraf and his company Finmark Financial, and Farzam Mehdizadeh and his firm Aria Exchange who were all subjects of the investigation in Canada.
Mehdizadeh, who reportedly once owned the biggest Iranian exchange bureau in Canada, was arrested in 2016 and fled to Iran after being released on bail.
Ortis, 51, had pleaded not guilty to all charges and testified that he offered secret material to targets in a bid to get them to use an online encryption service set up by an allied intelligence agency to spy on adversaries.
The prosecuting team argued Ortis lacked authority to disclose classified material and that he was not doing so as part of a sanctioned undercover operation.
Prosecutor Judy Kliewer suggested the Crown would seek a prison sentence of 20 or more years.
Ortis was arrested in September 2019. A civilian with a PhD in international relations, he was at the time the director of the RCMP’s national intelligence co-ordination centre in Ottawa, with access to Canada’s Top-Secret Network (CTSN), a computer network used by the federal government to share classified information. CTSN held intelligence from Canada’s allies in the Five Eyes, an intelligence-sharing network that includes the US, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The trail to his arrest began the previous year when the RCMP analyzed the contents of a laptop owned by Vincent Ramos, CEO of Phantom Secure Communications, who had been apprehended in the United States. His company provided criminal organizations with encrypted mobile phones.
The jury was told that RCMP investigators found emails to Ramos from Ortis offering classified information to in exchange for $20,000.
Moreover, federal prosecutor Judy Kliewer alleged Ortis was in the final stages of a plan to pass state secrets to a “foreign entity” as well.
CBC reports that before his arrest, Otis’ home had been raided secretly, and just on one laptop, investigators found 488 secret files. Some had their headers removed and turned into PDF documents, hence untraceable, and ready to be shared. They also found searches for Chinese and other diplomats and embassies.
“Given the nature of the documents … these are no longer organized crime directed documents. These are all documents that related to national security and would only be of interest to a foreign entity,” the prosecution argued.
Reacting to the conviction, Canadian daily Globe and Mail declared that the outcome of the trial suggests that the Canadian judicial system passed an “extraordinary test”.
According to Wesley Wark, “for Canada’s intelligence and law enforcement partners, who share national security concerns about transnational organized crime, money laundering and possible terrorism linkages (Iran lurked in the background of this case), the Ortis trial had Canada on trial”.
“Even with the successful outcome of the trial, that trust will remain fragile, while the RCMP works to improve its internal security,” writes Wark.
As for the Iranian media, the news does not seem to have been covered inside the country, with headlines still dominated by the war in Gaza. State run news agencies such as IRNA and Fars did report on Otis’ arrest in 2019, albeit without mentioning any links to Iran in the investigation.
Source » iranintl