This story has been updated to add a response from the company Tuta.
A prosecutor in the trial of a former RCMP intelligence director, who allegedly leaked secrets to subjects of international police probes, said during cross-examination that Cameron Ortis was “enabling” the targets rather than operating on the information of a foreign agency.
Hundreds of pages of transcripts, which include the cross-examination of Mr. Ortis, were released by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada late on Friday night.
Journalists have to rely on transcripts because members of the public, including reporters, were barred from the courtroom for Mr. Ortis’s testimony earlier this month pursuant to a court order. A consortium of media outlets, including The Globe and Mail, opposed this measure.
Transcripts show that Crown prosecutor John MacFarlane impugned the defence put forward by the former RCMP civilian, including that Mr. Ortis was trying to direct Vincent Ramos, the CEO of an encrypted cellphone company that supplied devices to criminals, to an e-mail platform known as Tutanota for a “legitimate purpose.”
Recently, twelve jurors had an opportunity to hear Mr. Ortis’s defence for the first time, which included the 51-year-old telling them that he was contacted in 2014 by a foreign agency, of which he cannot name.
Mr. Ortis testified that a counterpart at the foreign agency informed him about a plan to use a “storefront” – a fake business or entity established covertly by an intelligence organization or a law-enforcement organization – designed to see targets feed information into the Five Eyes system and then back in to the RCMP.
The Five Eyes is an intelligence pact involving Canada, Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
During his testimony, Mr. Ortis told the court that a plan was designed to encourage individuals to move from one e-mail service to another, called Tutanota, an encrypted e-mail provider.
“You say the goal of this e-mail exchange with Mr. Ramos was to get him to move to Tutanota. Is that right, sir?” Mr. MacFarlane asked, to which Mr. Ortis replied “that’s correct.”
“And that Tutanota was a government-run storefront that was being used to intercept intelligence or evidence of alleged criminals?” Mr. MacFarlane asked.
“At the time, that’s what I was briefed on,” Mr. Ortis said.
Mr. Ortis also told the court that his superior, RCMP assistant commissioner Todd Shean, was not made aware of the plan. Mr. Shean was a Crown witness who previously testified in the trial.
The Crown has pointed to e-mail evidence showing contact with Mr. Ramos that culminates in a request in May, 2015, for a $20,000 payment in exchange for full copies of classified documents. The jury has heard that the RCMP found no evidence of a payment to Mr. Ortis.
Mr. Ramos was sentenced to nine years imprisonment after he pleaded guilty in the United States to providing Phantom Secure devices to assist in the distribution of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine to Canada, the U.S., Australia, Mexico, Thailand and Europe.
“What happened is that you were having e-mail exchanges with Mr. Ramos,” Mr. MacFarlane said to Mr. Ortis.
“He [Ramos] said he wanted to contact you on Tutanota on March the 31st. And on April the 5th, 2015, there’s a flurry of web searches by you about ‘what the heck is Tutanota’ before you respond to him on April the 20th. Isn’t that right, sir?”
“No, that’s incorrect,” Mr. Ortis said. “My web browsing history from my office computers, my personal computer, would demonstrate that I had been looking at Tutanota on its website almost a year before this.”
In a statement on Monday, the e-mail company, now known as Tuta, released a statement saying it is not owned or operated by any secret service, nor is it a “storefront” and the allegations are completely untrue.
Mr. Ortis’s lawyers have said their client acted as he did – which involved sharing highly classified information with the subjects of international criminal investigations – because he had authority to do so. The Crown says Mr. Ortis had no such authority.
Mr. Ortis faces a total of six charges, including an allegation of breach of trust and a computer-related charge. He also faces four charges for allegedly breaching the Security of Information Act. One of the charges relates to communicating with Mr. Ramos.
Additionally, Mr. Ortis faces charges for communicating with Greater Toronto Area businessmen Salim Henareh and Muhammad Ashraf and attempting to communicate with another individual, Farzam Mehdizadeh.
The agreed statement of facts in the Ortis trial says Mr. Henareh, Mr. Ashraf and Mr. Mehdizadeh and their companies were subjects of investigation in Canada.
Court has also heard about an RCMP investigation called Project Oryx that investigated money-services businesses in the GTA.
From at least 2014, the RCMP, along with multiple Five Eyes law-enforcement and intelligence agencies, investigated money-laundering activities conducted by various entities believed to be associated with Altaf Khanani, the statement of agreed facts says.
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, and was sentenced to 68 months in U.S. prison.
A press release from the U.S. Treasury Department said in November, 2015 that the Khanani organization “launders illicit funds for organized-crime groups, drug-trafficking organizations, and designated terrorist groups throughout the world.”
In his cross-examination, Mr. MacFarlane asked Mr. Ortis whether the Khanani money-laundering network was also working for transnational organized crime.
“Correct,” Mr. Ortis said.
Mr. MacFarlane also asked whether they had “ties to terrorists” to which Mr. Ortis said: “They had ties to terrorists.”
Mr. MacFarlane said Mr. Ortis, in sending messages to Mr. Henareh and Mr. Ashraf, was “not trying to disrupt them.”
“You were enabling them,” he said, adding that Mr. Ortis was sending them “information so they could avoid detection from the RCMP.”
“I was not enabling,” Mr. Ortis replied. “No disruption, no enabling, no criminal investigations. It was simply an intelligence operation to nudge them towards a secured e-mail provider.”