Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Cameron Jay Ortis, right, a former RCMP intelligence director accused of disclosing classified information, leaves the Ottawa Courthouse following a break in proceedings in Ottawa on Oct. 3.Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press

Any leaks to targets of police investigations could jeopardize those efforts, a retired RCMP staff sergeant said Thursday during a high-profile criminal trial of a former civilian member of the force.

Former Mountie Patrick Martin, who retired this year, testified at the request of the Crown in the criminal proceedings of Cameron Ortis.

Mr. Ortis faces charges for allegedly sharing secrets with the subjects of international police probes while he worked for Canada’s national police force. He was charged in September, 2019.

In court Thursday, Mr. Martin was asked about an RCMP report on a money laundering investigation called Project Oryx that focused on money service businesses in the Greater Toronto Area. The Crown alleges Mr. Ortis shared classified information with subjects of that probe.

During questioning by Crown prosecutor John MacFarlane, Mr. Martin was asked whether it was important for subjects of investigations to know about it.

Mr. Martin replied that if subjects know they’re being investigated, it could cause individuals to change their tactics or they could halt what they’re doing altogether. He said that it could affect investigations or even shut them down.

“It could jeopardize an ongoing investigation, in this case with the Australian Federal Police, with the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] in the United States,” Mr. Martin said.

During cross-examination of Mr. Martin, one of Mr. Ortis’ lawyers, Jon Doody, asked if he had heard of an undercover operation conducted online, to which he replied that he had not.

The defence has yet to make their arguments in court but Mr. Ortis’ lawyers have publicly stated their client had the authority to do what he did.

Mr. Ortis, 51, worked as the civilian director-general of the RCMP National Intelligence Coordination Centre, which afforded him access to sensitive, highly classified information. He also held positions in operations research and national-security criminal investigations.

He was hired by the national police force in 2007. The RCMP has confirmed he is no longer employed there.

The Crown told jurors last week that Mr. Ortis is permanently bound to secrecy and there was no policy in place that allowed for communication with targets of investigations in any way.

Mr. Ortis has pleaded not guilty to six charges, including four that relate to alleged breaches of the Security of Information Act. He also faces a computer-related charge and an allegation of breach of trust.

Mr. Ortis’ trial by jury is being held in Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa and is expected to last weeks.

Leaks of secret information ‘happen often,’ lawyer for ex-RCMP official tells court

An agreed statement of fact in the Ortis trial states that from at least 2014, the RCMP, along with multiple Five Eyes law enforcement and intelligence agencies, investigated money laundering activities conducted by various entities associated with Altaf Khanani, a Dubai-based money service businesses owner and the head of an international money laundering network.

The Five Eyes are an intelligence pact among Canada, Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

The agreed statement of fact states that three businessmen in the Greater Toronto Area were subjects of investigation in Canada.

Mr. Ortis also faces a charge related to allegedly sharing information with a man named Vincent Ramos, who was the chief executive officer of a company called Phantom Secure. The company produced encrypted communications devices used by criminal organizations.

Mr. Ramos pleaded guilty in the United States to providing his Phantom Secure devices to assist in the distribution of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine to Canada, the U.S., Australia, Mexico, Thailand and Europe. In May, 2019, he was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment.

Mr. Ramos’ arrest in Las Vegas in March, 2018, is key to the prosecution of Mr. Ortis.

Court heard last week that Mr. Ramos’ arrest was the result of an FBI investigation, with which the RCMP and members of the Australian police service were asked to help.

Classified documents were then discovered on Mr. Ramos’ MacBook, which lead police to charge Mr. Ortis.

During a search of the defendant’s apartment, police found devices including a specialized USB flash drive that contained a folder called “The Project,” which included documents sent to Mr. Ramos.

Police also found RCMP documents, e-mails and communication to targets of the international police investigations on the USB stick. The agreed statement of facts in Mr. Ortis’ case indicates that the RCMP’s report on Project Oryx was discovered on the USB.

The Crown told jurors last week that officers came to believe Mr. Ortis’ alleged activities went beyond communicating special operational information to Mr. Ramos.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe